Sunday, June 12, 2011

Keeping Hot Dogs cool

Our first 90+ degree day last week. NWS reported 95 degrees at 7pm with 55% humidity - for a 'feels like temperature of 99 degrees. Super swell. Hot dogs, hot human - Both air conditioners are working overtime to cool this big space. It's an improvement over outside of course - but it's still brutal. I don't work my boys in any capacity when it's that hot - no runs, no retrieve sessions, no agility - even their pool time is limited as the air quality goes down....So it seems like a good time to talk about things that we can do to help our canines beat the heat - both at home and on the road.

Cool Coats
Teller models his Cool Coat from Saratoga Horseworks
Saratoga Horseworks makes a mesh cool coat out of their fly sheet material. I've looked at and tried other coats made of various materials (including the reflective shade mesh) and I haven't found one that works as well as the model from Saratoga Horseworks. I find that it helps considerably even dry when we're out and about, but it's magic when it's soaked in a cooler of ice water and put on the dog damp. The evaporative cooling is pretty remarkable, but when you put a fan over a damp coat (or the air conditioning in the van) the effect is significant - very quickly cooling the dog down. When you wet the coat take care not to soak the dog to the skin - particualrly for dogs with double coats like goldens - getting the dog wet is ultimately going to make the dog HOTTER as the water in the coat reaches body temperature. I also carry a spray bottle with a 1:5 dilution of rubbing alcohol to water in the event that I really need to increase the evaporative cooling. Remember - rubbing alcohol is really bad for dogs, but diluted down and sprayed only on the coat (and the dog not allowed to lick a wet coat) the evaporation effect is nicely amplified.

The reflective mesh coats do reflect the sun when the dogs are outside, but really don't seem to work to make the dog cooler inside, in the shade, etc - even if you wet the lining. I bought one for Murphy when they first came out and returned it in virtually like-new condition.

Cool Mats
Canine Cooler
There are two basic types of cool mats. One that is essentially a vinyl bladder (the original brand is called "Canine Cooler") that you fill with water and one (original brand name is "MiraCool") that contains crystals that are activated by water. The later puts damp up against the dog's skin. Heat, humidity and dampness aren't three variables I like to combine for any dog prone to hot spots - and in my experience they don't work. They get everything they come in contact with damp - which in the car means that I have to be sure to open the car up later and dry everything out. MiraCools just dry bean-like crystals in fabric - and I don't find them to be particularly useful. I knew someone who made homemade miracool blankets with potters crystals.

Here is a step by step for making your own Miracool Mat: http://www.crystals.us/CICoolTies.htm

The vinyl bladder model seems to be more effective for slightly longer periods of time, but the mats are heavy to cart around (containing 1-2 gallons of water) and always seem to spring leaks at the seems - even when treated with kid gloves.

Zentek Mats
Finally a magic bullet for keeping dogs cool in the summer! Or so they were advertised. I bought two of them, slightly smaller than would normally fit my dogs on the theory that they would choose to lay on them or they wouldn't. I didn't want to force the mats on them in crates, both dogs run really hot so I wanted them to tell me if they made a difference. Teller is FAMOUS for pushing a bath mat out through the bars of his crate in the van when he was annoyed that it was too hot (he'll happily sleep on bathmats when it's cold outside). He made a similar review of the Zentek mat. Not taking his word for it I decided to ride home from the LEAP trial sitting on the Zentek. The ambient air temperature was well above 80, my body heat certainly above 85 degrees and I found the Zentek mat to act like any other fabric - definitely holding heat in and making me feel HOTTER than I would have felt with my legs directly on the car seat. I had high hopes though!!!

Shade Cloths
It's possible with some thought and preparation to keep dogs cool(ish) and safe in a car. Be very clear that emphasis is on "thought and preparation" in that statement. Cars, dogs and heat can be a deadly combination - so take care and monitor your dogs. Mesh shade cloth covering the entire surface of the car - all windows and doors open (easier with a van), light colored cars can make a dog's environment just about equivalent to chilling in the shade. More on that in this post. You'll want to get cloths that are larger than you think you need. I use two 10'x12' cloths to cover my van. Best pricing on these cloths are at Pet Edge and (occaisionally) Horse.com.

Water Jugs
One of the least expensive ways to keep your dog cool is to change his climate. A/C works when we're at home - but what about on the road? I like using frozen water jugs. It's hard to re-freeze jugs when we're on the road - but it's relatively easy to use hotel provided ice to fill a jug and place that jug in the dogs' crates. Dogs can decide how to interact with the jugs. Even a jug filled with ice cubes will help.


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