Summer is here! Even in the UK it can get very warm, particularly for our furry friends. It is important that we help them to stay as comfortable as possible in hot weather, and there are many different ways to do so. Cooling jackets for dogs are becoming increasingly popular, so how do they work and why should we use them?

Why do we need to keep dogs cool?

Dogs control their body temperature in a different way to us, by lying on a cool surface, or in the shade, and panting. Dogs only have a few sweat glands in their paws therefore it is not an efficient cooling system for them.

All dogs can fall victim to heatstroke if they spend too much time out in hot weather, be that exercising or even sitting still! Signs of heatstroke can include: 

  • Excessive panting 
  • Drooling/foaming at the mouth 
  • Lethargy 
  • Disorientation 
  • Collapse 
  • Seizures 

When body temperature reaches 41.5⁰c, this can cause irreversible organ damage, and can be fatal.

We need to be extra wary when it comes to our brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds – these include Pugs, French Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Boston Terriers. Dogs use panting as a cooling mechanism – however these breeds often have more soft tissue around their airways, meaning less air can pass in and out, meaning that panting is much less efficient for heat loss. Other at-risk dogs include overweight animals, older animals and breeds with thick coats.

Why use a cooling jacket? 

Cooling jackets work on the principle of evaporation, similar to the way sweating works. When we sweat, this evaporates, transferring body heat into the environment. Instead of sweat, these jackets work using water. They are made up of 3 layers. There is an absorbent layer (that takes on water when soaked) in the middle, a dry inner layer in contact with the dog and an outer layer to absorb the water that has evaporated. These coats tend to be lightweight, comfortable and are machine washable. 

While there isn’t lots of evidence to support the use of these jackets, there’s no harm in using them, but check them regularly in case all the water has evaporated – if they’re dry, it’s just like wearing a normal jacket, and will make matters even worse!

Cooling mats, bandanas, and collars that work on a similar principle, are also available.

What else can I do?

There are a number of extra things you can do to look after your dog on hot days:

  • Walk them when it’s coolest – never in the middle of the day 
  • Ensure they have plenty of fresh water available 
  • Make sure they have plenty of access to shade/cooler areas
  • Keep your dog a healthy weight 
  • Consider clipping dogs with thicker coats (it’s a myth that this makes things worse in most climates!)
  • Never leave your dog in a hot car

Remember to look out for the signs mentioned above. If you are concerned your dog may have heatstroke, contact your vet immediately

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