Though dogs are active year-round, when the weather warms and the sun shines, they seem even more eager to play outside. Take steps to prevent heat exhaustion; your buddy is, after all, wearing a fur coat all the summer. A canine cooling vest can help regulate his body temperature during warm days.
Dogs, unlike humans, do not sweat through their skin as a means of regulating body temperature. Though they do sweat minimally through their paws, dogs mainly pant and circulate oxygen throughout their bodies as a means of staying cool. On warm days with an abundance of exercise, this may not be enough to adequately cool their bodies. Dusk and dawn are the coolest times for exercise during summer, but cooling vests can help dogs cool down faster if they must be outside during the hottest parts of the day.
During the warmer months, it can take much longer, up to an hour longer than in the winter, for dogs to cool off and return to a normal body temperature -- between 101 and 102.5 degrees fahrenheit -- after exercise. A 2012 study at the University of Florida found that cooling vests helped accelerate the cooling process in overheated canines. Working dogs and those participating in outdoor agility training could greatly benefit from a cooling vest before and after their designated activities. Pups simply out on a hike can wear their vests the entire time.
Dog cooling vests come in a variety of styles. Some vests, such as the Cool Vest by Radic, are soaked in cool water before use. These vests are made of water-retaining fabric that cools your dog as it evaporates. Among the options available is the Chillybuddy Dog Cooling Vest. This vest is lined with breathable cotton mesh to allow for evaporative cooling, while the outer layer is made of reflective, lightweight woven plastic to shield direct sunlight. Larger, rough-and-tumble dogs may do best in the RPCM Cooling Vest. Originally designed for military working dogs, this cooling vest is made of sturdy nylon and features removable cooling packs that recharge after 20 minutes in ice water.
Carefully measure your buddy’s length, girth and neck circumference to ensure a proper fit. Once he’s wearing his vest, observe to make sure that it’s snug but not tight, that urination is unimpeded and that no portion hangs, drags or otherwise limits his movement.
Heat Stress Signs and Symptoms
Always observe your pup when playing outdoors. Consult your veterinarian immediately if he shows any of the following signs of heat-related stress: profuse panting, excessive salivation, anxiety, warm, dry skin, fever, rapid pulse, fatigue, muscular weakness or collapse.
- University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine: UF Study Looks at Role of Vests in Heat-Related Illness of Working Dogs
- VetStreet: Top 6 Water Safety Products for Pets
- Pet MD: Why Do Dogs Pant?
- The Whole Dog Journal: Prevent Your Dog From Suffering Heat Stress This Summer
- Web MD: High Fever in Dogs
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.