Dog sleeping under beach chair

This time of year is always tough on pets — especially for the super-playful ones who prefer to persist in their dog day frolics despite the few extra degrees. Left to their own devices, they’d play the day away, risking heatstroke, sunburn and dehydration, among other hot weather hazards.

Good thing they have us humans to help keep their boundless enthusiasm from getting the better of them. Too often, however, that means putting the kibosh on the fun whenever the mercury rises. In Miami, where I live, that translates into 300 days of play restriction per year.

What’s a Playful Pet (or Her Owner) to Do?

Maybe the notion of climate change is gaining favor among pet manufacturers, but this year seems busier than most on the summertime product front. Since January, I’ve come across more than a few new cool products (new to me, if not to the marketplace) designed specifically with hot weather safety in mind.

Thinking you might enjoy knowing what’s new as much as I do, I’m sharing these products below, by category. Note: All of these, by the way, are to be used under supervision. Dogs will be dogs, after all, and mouthiness happens. While all these manufacturers appear to have taken significant steps to make all these products safe and sturdy, not all bedding is chew-proof and not all materials are nontoxic. Same goes for almost all products in all categories.

As always, feel free to chime in. Offer us your own personal hot weather favorites below the post.

Ruffwear Swamp Cooler

Cooling Vests

I happen to have a thing for cooling vests, as a category. And why not? They work really well when it comes to wicking heat away from pets’ skin right where they get hottest: at their core. But, unfortunately, they’re not all created equal.

Enter the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler. This lightweight, sun-reflecting, wettable garment is not only highly functional (it cools through evaporation, just like sweating), it’s really good-looking, too. For $54.95, it’s a great deal.

For heavier-duty work, however, the military apparently prefers them with replaceable cooling inserts. How else to explain the preponderance of this style of vest on sites with working dogs as models?

Though I confess I’ve never tried one on my own dogs, the one I’ve seen on some local K9 officers is the RPCM Chilly Dog Cooling Vest. It has the removable, replaceable, “rechargeable” cooling inserts on the underside of the chest. Each pack is designed to stay cool for two and a half hours and “recharges” after only 20 minutes in ice and water.

For $129, they’re a tad on the pricey side, but if your dog works hard in the heat or is especially heat sensitive (think: French Bulldog), it’s more than worth it.

K-9 Koolee Portable Pet Cooling Shelter

Cooling Mats

This seems to be the category du jour for hot weather products, now that an explosion of cooling mats, beds and bedding inserts have newly entered the market. It’s a trend for which I’m personally gratified, seeing as these products offer lots to recommend them, portability and comfort foremost among them.

There are, however, many options to choose from — a troublesome detail if you’re unable to try them all out (and you can’t since many of the best of these are only available online, at least where I live). Which is why it’s good that I’m offering you a quick rundown of the kinds of cooling mats on offer:

Evaporation-style: The HyperKewl Evaporative Cooling Pad ($35-$51) is a perfect example. Like the Ruffwear vest above, it works to cool pets via the evaporation process. As such, it’s low-tech, lightweight and affordable — but very effective.

Cooling inserts: Some have simple inserts you cool and stuff inside. Consider the pretty K&H version ($55-$105), which has a “rechargeable” gel pack similar to the RPCM vest’s above.

The K9 Koolee Portable Pet Cooling Shelter ($103-$117) is another version. This one uses a proprietary, nontoxic polymer insert you soak in water to activate. It also comes with a cute canopy, making it a super-cool take-along for camping, the beach, etc.

Gel mat: Others are simple, gel-filled mats that always stay cooler than your pet’s skin. The Hugs Gel Mat is one of these. It’s highly portable and well priced at $30 or less.

Water-cooled: This method is how we keep our pets warm during surgery. It’s more than a perk; it’s a lifesaver. Some manufacturers have turned to this approach for warm weather management, and it really makes sense. I do worry, however, that claws and teeth may hamper its long-term efficacy. I’d definitely try it out on quiet, easygoing, heatstroke-prone pets like my Vincent.

The K&H Cool Bed III Cooling Dog Bed is one popular option. At $30-$60, it’s worth a try. It’s not so portable, but its low-tech approach and low toxicity factor appeal to me.

Ocean Breeze Cooling System

Cool Breezes

I’m a big fan of misting systems (no pun intended). While they’re nothing new for kennels, they seem to be increasingly marketed to regular dog owners with backyard needs. Any one of a number of these systems will likely suffice (it’s not rocket science), but at $30, the Ocean Breeze Cooling System is a popular option.

Crate fans are also making headway in the market. Unfortunately, most of these still look really Mickey Mouse-ish to me, and I’d never want to rely on these for car trips or anytime I couldn’t keep a close eye on my pets. With its freezable insert, the ProSelect Dog Crate Fan Cooling System is better than most. At $15, it’s cheap, but, again, just be aware it’s not a perfect solution to beating the heat.

Your turn: share some of your favorite summer products in the comments below.

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