Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hops in the Right Direction: Hot!

I live in a third floor walkup.  It's a beautiful old brick building, but for all its charm, it does lack some amenities.  (Like outlets, but that's for another post.)  Like central air.  I have a single window unit that works very, very hard to keep my apartment a cool, breezy 75-78 degrees.  This is a safe enough temperature for Prada, but it is decidedly warm for a girl in a thick fur coat. 

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to keep a girl cool.

For myself, my favorite way to stay cool is to eat copious amount of ice cream.  Ice cream made especially for dogs is available at some boutique-style pet stores, but it's very important for tripods to maintain a healthy weight and for their owners to maintain a healthy pocketbook.  Prada is perfectly happy with a simple ice cube.  She hates the sound it makes when it clinks against the side of a bowl or dish, so I lay out a towel first.  This has the added bonus of being mentally stimulating:  she's challenged to either chase the ice cube as it slips away from her or to hold it still (no mean feat with just one front paw).  Sometimes, for a treat, I mix a bit of low-sodium chicken broth with the water before freezing.

Prada is not a fan of Kongs, but I have heard of some dogs who really enjoy one frozen with peanut butter and treats or kibble mixed in.  Once again, it's important to watch your dog's weight.  The reason peanut butter tastes so good is that it has a lot of fats and oils.

Cooling mats are another option.  Most I've seen work by evaporation--that is, you soak the mat, wring it out, and voila!  You have a big mess.  Some you can hang to dry for about an hour to dry the outside.  Still, these may present a problem for dogs who, like Prada, prefer to stick to the carpet, thank you very much.  I did see a mat once (I want to say it was at that store in the mall that also sells high-tech calf massagers, you know the one.  Can't think of the name...) that was filled with a gel that absorbed the dog's body heat without the use of water or refrigeration, but the nylon casing was very slick, and would not have been Prada-approved. 

Several of these companies, however, also make cooling collars or bandanas, and this is something I am considering.  This one uses either a gel insert or an ice pack--both options worry me.  If an ice pack gets too cold, how is the dog to get away from it?  A gel pack could potentially be torn and eaten.  Non-toxic though it is, Prada's stomach is a sensitive thing.  Proper dog food sometimes makes her puke--chemicals are a no-go for us.  These bandanas use water and seem a better option--at least it would be a smaller mess than that made by an entire mat directly on the carpet.  (I haven't used either product, so no guarantees, of course.)  Vests and belly wraps are available with a bit of searching--I won't be considering these as most seem to require a second front leg for a good fit.

If you're travelling with your pet, you might consider a small air conditioner that attaches directly to your dog's crate--a safer alternative to cracking the windows.  If the summer gets too, too hot, and my window unit can't keep up, I might look into one of these for at home as a more economical option than a second window unit AC.

Tails, Inc., a media group supporting pet rescue and adoption (and whose email newsletter I actually look forward to receiving), recently reviewed the Hydro Bone, a chew toy that can be filled with water and frozen (or not) to keep your dog occupied, hydrated, and cool.  The company actually has a whole line of hydrating toys that might be worth checking out if your dog is a chewer.

The most important thing, of course, is to provide lots of cool, clean water, and shade if your dog is outside. 

What do you do to keep your dog cool in the hot summer months?  Anything I missed?


  1. I love those bandanas, I have the people version and it works okay mostly. I may have to hunt down a couple for the four-legged ones. Thanks for the tip. We don't have AC but living in the Pacific Northwest we don't get a LOT of hot weather. Maybe 2-3 days (give or take) over the whole summer with temps higher than 80.

    1. I'm pretty jealous. Chicago gets *hot*. Last year, most of the summer was in the mid- to upper-nineties. Ugh.