A quick inquiry to dog-loving folks on Facebook and an online search turns up more than a dozen products designed to help keep your dog cool when the temperature rises. A few that can be used before, during or after outdoor activities are highlighted below (websites are given for each, but you can find many in stores, too). Remember: None replaces common sense. Know the early signs of heat exhaustion in dogs, such as heavy panting, restlessness or a "belled-out" tongue, and get your dog cool and inside before it gets worse. Age, fitness level and breed all can affect how well a dog does in the heat, but even a young, healthy and active dog can get overheated when it's sunny and over 90 degrees. Much like with people, it can be best to exercise your dog in the morning or evening hours, make use of shady areas and have plenty of water available for you both.
Around the neck: Gretchen Meyer, founder of firecrackerdog.com, a website aimed at people with high-energy dogs, uses the KoolCollar when walking her three dogs. It's a hollow collar filled with a cooling gel tube for indoor use (less messy) or ice cubes for outside. "One of my dogs in particular has trouble in the heat. He walks really slowly when it's hot out," Meyer says. "I've found that by using the KoolCollar with him, he easily keeps up with me and another one of my dogs on our morning walk/runs." ($16 to $18; www.koolcollar4dogs.com)
The Chill Collar is a similar product; it's filled with a gel, and you freeze the whole thing before use ($29.95; www.inthecompanyofdogs.com).
Around the body: Swamp coolers and similar products wrap around a dog's midsection for a whole-body cooldown. Leah Alter's dog Frankie is a whippet/pit mix with a genetic heart condition who has to take it easy, especially in heat. She likes the Ruffwear version of a swamp cooler, which uses evaporative cooling to draw out body heat. Soak the vestlike product in cold water and wring it out before putting it on your dog. "And you can just pour more water directly on it after they are wearing it," Alter says. "The recovery time from the heat is amazing." ($54.95; www.ruffwear.com)
My dog, Ginger, often can be seen in her Kool Koat, which is made of shammy material that Velcros around her middle and works like a swamp cooler. I got one size bigger than she needs so that it drapes down her back end; she likes nothing more than having her butt and belly cool in the summer. ($33 to $85; www.pettemp.com)
Lounging/dunking: Pads such as the K9 Cooling Mat ($49.95) and the Cool Bed Lounger ($79.95) provide a cool surface for your dog to recline. Another version is the Canine Cooler Therapeutic Pad ($89.95 to $139), which is designed to ease inflammation and joint pain in dogs through a water-filled pad but could be used for heat relief, too. For instant shade, you can pop up the Portable Pet Cooling and Shelter System ($169), which is a water-charged bed with a tent that all folds up to fit in a carrying case. (All at www.inthecompanyofdogs.com.)
And you can always just get your dog wet all over. Let him dunk in the water while walking the hike-and-bike trail, or fill a baby pool or large metal container in your backyard. "They will plop in it after a walk or even if they are just playing in the yard," says Pat Bancroft, who has two dogs of her own and usually a third she's fostering for Blue Dog Rescue. "Not very high-tech, but they are happy with it."
Contact Sharon Chapman at 445-3647.View full experience