In extreme heat, active dogs need more than water and shade to avoid heat stroke. Solutions such as canine cooling vests and evaporative collars have been on the market for years. A Tennessee company recently added a new product to that list: a PCM-equipped canine collar designed to suppress body temperature during rigorous physical activity.
T-CoolK9 launched its website, t-coolk9.com, in mid-March and made its first sale a week later. For Blake Fohl, the company's chief operating officer, T-CoolK9 is both a passion project and a full-time job. He began working on the product about a year ago.
Q: What sparked your interest in developing a cooling product for dogs?
A: "I was approached by an individual who had an idea, but didn't know how to bring it to market in the right way. My wife has been breeding German shepherds for two decades. We have dogs all over the world and doing about anything a dog can do, so we understood the dangers of canine heat stroke. I felt if there was a significant market, if the product could be proven to work as intended, it would be worth the time to create a new company from scratch."
Q: How did you arrive at the design of the cooling collar? It's different from competing products.
A: "We enlisted the help of a research scientist with an competency in biology and physiology. Our objective was to obtain a real grasp of how canines cool themselves, and to conduct trials which demonstrated the ability to reduce the dog's blood temperature. During our research of other products, we found they either had no scientific research behind them, or they just don't work. Dogs cool themselves through respiration primarily and to a very small degree through vascular temperature transfer in the feet and around the anus. That knowledge, in itself, led to the design of the collar. Looking at the arterial and vascular pathways really explains the design. Heat deflection sheets actually have the opposite effect. Water evaporation vests simply add weight to the dog and as you now know, they don't cool themselves that way. Other products which use ice packs, or maybe even phase change material, place the packs in the wrong position."
Q: How did you arrive at the melt point of the PCM (8°C)? Other products use 15-18°C.
A: "We identified pretty quickly that the PureTemp 15 we initially tested just wasn't cool enough, especially with double-coated dogs, such as German shepherds. So the scientist, a really smart guy, did some calculations and, working with PureTemp, we landed on PureTemp 8."
Q: How much PCM, by weight, is used in each collar?
A: "There are three PCM packs in the collar, two in the neck and one in the chest. We are averaging around 200 grams per collar."
Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from dog owners?
A: "It has been a little overwhelming. From search-and-rescue teams, police dogs, sport dogs, from people who do serious hiking with their dogs to owners who are just active with their pets, people are falling in love with the product. I think it is due to two reasons. First, the owners have a sense of confidence that they are doing the right thing to keep their dogs safe and comfortable, and secondly, they tell us the dogs actually get excited when they put the collar on."
Q: The collars are designed to fit all dogs with neck circumference of 10 inches or more. Do you plan on offering additional sizes?
A: "If the demand is there, we will make it. Our collar can fit any dog with a neck of 10 inches up to about 34 inches. That's a big dog. Seventy-five percent of the registered dogs in America fall into that range."
Q: Your site mentions that a portion of the profits from the sales of our product will be reinvested in additional scientific research. What's the focus of the research?
A: "We will be working with our original scientist and he is exploring creating a group of scientists and technologists to help understand the problem of canine heat stroke better and create new products and technologies to prevent the deaths of dogs. I could write for hours about how complicated this issue is, and how difficult it is to identify all the variables that go into creating a solution. We have a good first solution to help prevent the problem, but it is not the ultimate fail-safe product that we hope to have one day."