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4:39 PM   April 27, 2015
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Beating the Heat

New products are helping pets stay cool and comfortable in hot, sunny weather.
By Meghan Murphy

When the sun starts beating down, people slather on sunscreen, leash up their dogs and go into the great outdoors. Unfortunately, people tend to forget about protecting their pets as well from the effects of the sun and heat.

With evaporation vests in stock, retailers can help customers cool their pets down. Courtesy of Ruff Wear Inc.
“People are lathering on sunscreen and they’re not thinking about their white short-haired dog,” said Valerie Hall, owner of VKR Enterprises, Inc., an online retailer carrying various pet products, including pet sun-proofing accessories, in Gilroy, Calif.

Many dogs need protection from nose to tail from the sun and heat. Certain breeds are susceptible to skin cancer and eye damage, while others overheat easily, according to various Morris Animal Foundation research studies and the organization’s Canine Cancer Campaign website.

As consumers learn more about the effects of the sun on their pets, more retailers are carrying new products, from nose soothers to cooling vests, that promise to help keep their customers’ pets protected.

Sun protection products are a small part of Hall’s online retail business, which focuses on unique items that can’t often be found in local stores. However, Hall sees potential in the market, especially if people become more aware of the sun’s effects on their dogs.

“We just have to educate our customers to think about their dogs,” Hall said.

In order to pick the right sun and heat protection products, retailers need to not only learn about the dangers sun exposure poses to pets, but also know their clients specific needs, according to industry sources.

There are three Bs to remember when retailers are thinking about carrying heat and sun protection products: Boston terriers, boxers and bulldogs; smaller dogs and dogs with shorter coats are particularly susceptible to overheating, said Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruff Wear in Bend, Ore.

Dogs with light-colored noses and coats are at greater risk for sunburn, said Elice Strickland, founder and president of Natural Dog Company, manufacturer of the Natural Dog Snout Soother, in Houston.

“Retailers need to pay attention to the types of dogs people have and help them meet their needs,” Strible said.

Kirsten Bailey, owner of Struttin Pup in Lafayette, Colo. said many people who own specific breeds such as bulldogs know very well about overheating problems.

Bailey recently purchased Snout Soother as a natural alternative to similar products that moisturizes skin and has sunscreen protection. Her store also carries a natural sunscreen from Ark Naturals.

More and more, people are looking for alternatives to chemical-based dog products, Strickland said.

“There’s a definite wave of people wanting natural products,” she said. “People are starting to recognize that there are dangers with synthetic products.”

Along with a trend toward natural products, there are new innovations in cooling coats for dogs.

Janice Kajanoff, founder of Zentek Clothing Company in Seattle, said her cooling coat uses a material developed by NASA. Therefore, education is key to her marketing strategy. She said she’s often explaining to people how the phase-changing material keeps a static temperature despite the dog’s heat level changing.

Ruff Wear, which manufacturers a coat that uses evaporation to cool dogs, is often teaching some science lessons as well, Strible said.

Kajanoff said she focuses on the professional dog market, informing dog trainers and handlers about her product. Folks who are working with sporting or working dogs tend to have a greater need and awareness about heat protection products, she said.

In the northeast, the climate just doesn’t often call for heat or sun protection products, said Brian Ahearn, owner of Four Your Paws Only, a pet product retail store in North Conway, N.H.

For 16 years, the store has carried Mushers Secret, a beeswax product that protects pup paws from hot sand and pavement. However, Ahearn said he only special orders other items such as sunscreen and cooling coats upon request.

Ruff Wear’s Swamp Cooler evaporative coat sells in arid climates, Strible said, because the eaporative technology works best where humidity is low. Nevertheless, some heat and sun protection products have dual purposes. Strickland said her sunscreen lotion sells well in cooler climates where dogs also suffer from chapped skin.

Zentek’s cooling coat also serves as a warmer in the winter, because the material stays at a constant temperature, according to Kajanoff.

Hall also sells cooling bandanas that are meant to be wetted. She suspects some of her customers buy them just for the designs, she said.

Kajanoff, who is also a dressmaker for people, said retailers should look for products that are both attractive and useful. Aside from space-age cooling technologies, in the end, people also want a really practical coat for their pets, she said. <HOME>

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