It’s hot and your dogs are wearing fur coats — here’s how to keep them safe

June 23, 2017
Katie Garrido of Austin challenges her 3-year-old Labrador retriever, Maggie, to fetch a small tree limb along the shores of the Red Bud Isle dog park on Red Bud Trail recently. Garrido was among hundreds of residents who utilized the park to beat the 90-degree heat with dips into Lady Bird Lake to stay cool. ED ALLEN/WESTLAKE PICAYUNE

My sweet Ginger, who went over the Rainbow Bridge a few months ago, was a former street dog who would lie down and refuse to move once the temps went above 80 (sometimes 75). Most dogs aren’t that savvy (or lazy). And we humans have been known to put our pets in danger in the heat.

Safety first

Let’s talk cars: It’s already too hot to leave dogs in a parked car for any length of time without air conditioning. Check out the chart below from one of our favorite dogs about town, Kaxan, that shows just how fast your car will heat up, even in the shade (and cracking the windows does not help).

Travis County EMS recommends checking that your pet can go inside any destination before you leave home, and leaving your dog at home if not.

Cars aren’t the only danger during our sizzling season. More hot weather pet tips from Travis County and PETA:

Know the signs

Do you know when your dog is getting dangerously over-heated? A lot of folks don’t. The City of Austin posted signs on the hike-and-bike trail a few summers ago urging other people to alert owners when dogs appeared to be getting too hot. I learned these signs from my longtime trainers at the Canine Center for Training and Behavior:

Cool tools

 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. Here are a few that can be used before, during or after outdoor activities (most available online and in stores). Remember: None replaces common sense and care in the heat. 

Around the neck: Wet and freeze a bandanna for a simple cooling tool. Two products you can buy (among others): The KoolCollar, a hollow collar filled with a cooling gel tube for indoor use (less messy) or ice cubes for outside. ($18 to $20; 

The Chill Collar is a similar product; it's filled with a gel, and you freeze the whole thing before use ($39.95; 

A Kool Koat is made of shammy material and you wet with cold water before being put on the dog.Credit: Sharon Chapman

Around the body: Swamp coolers and similar products wrap around a dog's midsection for a whole-body cooldown. The Ruffwear version of a swamp cooler 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. You can pour more water directly on the vest while your dog is wearing it, too. ($59.95;

My dog, Ginger, spent her summers in her Kool Koat, which is made of shammy material that Velcros around the middle and works like a swamp cooler. I got one size bigger than she needed so that it draped down her back end; she enjoyed few things more having her butt and belly cool in the summer. ($20 to $85;

Lounging: Pads such as the K9 Cooling Mat and the Cool Bed Lounger (various styles and prices) provide a cool surface for your dog to recline. Another version is the Canine Cooler Therapeutic Pad, 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 Shade, a pop-up tent that folds up to fit in a carrying case. (All at