How Do Dog Cooling Mats Work – Wiggles and Wags
How Do Dog Cooling Mats Work

How Do Dog Cooling Mats Work

Cooling mats, packs and devices are designed to cool objects and body temperatures and they have been around for decades. They are available in various forms and there are many products to choose from. Some of these cooling mats contain gel, water and PCM crystals and consumer reviews and tests have shown that some are more effective than others.

Which is the best type of cooling mat to buy?

There are many cooling mats and pads to choose from, ranging in size and also in price. The cheaper ones tend to be filled with a basic water mix or gel and can be used to cool down objects. However, if you want a cooling mat to cool you or your dog down, it is probably best to go for a mat which doesn't have one default 'deep freeze' setting.

A cool mat which has just one extreme temperature will not be as efficient when it comes to maintaining a cooling temperature for a longer period. And, when it comes to safety and that anti-shock element, you are better off investing in a better quality cooling mat. These will often feel that they have a gel type substance in them but they will have the technology to discharge and recharge.

For now, we'll give you a brief summary of the options and you can decide if any meet your particular requirements.

What are gel type cooling mats?

These types of cooling mats contain a gel, which can be mostly water but will also comprise of other materials to make it a more gel-like and evenly spread liquid inside the mat. Some require a fridge to cool them and we have even heard of people putting them into the freezer. However, we wouldn't recommend doing this. Imagine the shock to your dog when it lies on a near ice-cube temperature surface!

Other gels contain water and also substances like alginic acid, polyacrylamide and
carboxmethyl cellulose. Alginin acid is basically an emulsifier and thickener and is used in foodstuffs like ice cream and some yoghurts.

Polyacrylamide is an acrylic resin and is used in water treatment and as water jelly crystals, which goes some way to explain why it is a suitable product for cooling mats as it absorbs liquid and forms a gel.

Carboxmethyl cellulose is often used as a viscosity modifier and water retention agent in the oil drilling industry and is a water-soluble cellulose derivative.

When combined, these products seem to offer non-toxic cooling properties and may not split as easily when extremely cold temperatures are applied to them.

Before you consider a gel type mat, look at its properties and which of its ingredients are cooling you down. Is this through a mix of water and chemicals only or is there a cooling technology within the mat?

Water based cooling mats

These tend to be very low cost items that have been sealed adequately but only contain water. You can freeze them like an ice pack and then allow your dog to lie on them. You can imagine the shock of a freezing cold ice pack when your dog is very hot! We wouldn't advise these dog cooling mats as they only have one extreme temperature. This basically means that it is freezing cold to the touch and you wouldn't want to shock your dog. These items may be cheap but there are safer and better options out there.

How do phase change cooling mats work?

If you take a look at the main image in this post, it explains how this phase change principle works. If you are slightly confused by the complexity of this image, we'll explain this in very simple terms.

These types of materials are used in many industrial applications and can be broken down into four main categories. These include eutectics, salt hydrates, organic materials, and high temperature salts. Basically, when a phase change material is a liquid it no longer cools. It will only get to a liquid state after it has absorbed heat. This could be a result of your dog laying on a cool mat for a few hours.

So this means that When the ambient temperature around a liquid material drops, the phase change material solidifies and then releases its stored latent heat. The latent heat is the heat released or absorbed. If you'd really like to get into more detail, this Wikipedia article is a good read.

The mat will only cool when the crystals in it are in a more solid state. This solid state will feel quite rigid to the touch, but you can still move and bend it.

If you have a mat with a more solid, crystal-like feel to it then it is fully recharged and ready to cool. If you or your dog lie on a mat in this state it will eventually turn to a liquid/gel again as it absorbs body heat. It is at this point that you need to recharge it. To recharge a cooling mat you just place it in a cool, dark room or cupboard overnight and it will go from a liquid to solid state again. You can then use it to cool your dog again until the mat becomes a liquid state. To speed up this recharge process, you can place it in a fridge (not a freezer!!) for a couple of hours. It is then advised to leave it out for 20-30 minutes at room temperature before using it.

This method and associated technology is a preferred choice for many types of premium dog cooling mats and is a safe bet for efficiently cooling down your dog in hot weather or after periods of heavy exercise.

Where to place the mat

When the mat is in a solid state, place it in a shaded area, out of direct sunlight. Move your dog onto the mat when it is warm, so it knows where the mat is and it will understand that it will give off a cooling sensation when it lays on it.

Make sure that the mat is not too cold. If you have placed it in a cool, dark room it should be in a reasonable state to start cooling. However, if the storing room temperatures were quite high, it might be a good idea to place it in the fridge for 20-30 mins.This will provide a good base and starting temperature.

If you follow these procedures your mat should be safe and fit for purpose. But please do check the temperature of the mat before using.

When you introduce the mat to your dog for the first time, it is a good idea to confirm to your dog that it is a safe and comfortable place to be. If your dog lies down on the mat, praise and reward it and gently comfort your dog to show positive reinforcement. If your dog feels at ease it will find it easier to go back to the mat. If you are patient with this process, your dog should catch on very quickly that a mat offers a positive cooling sensation.

Can I place the mat in my dog's bed?

Yes, you can certainly do this, but we'd recommend that you monitor how your dog reacts when you place the mat in the bed for the first time. It is often better to teach your dog to use the mat in a different location so it can distinguish between the two. Your dog needs to make up its own mind, when it comes to the difference between rest, sleep and relief.

How long will a mat cool for?

A dog cooling mat should cool for around 4-6 hours, but this depends on the type and technology within it. In all cases a mat will require a re-cooling or recharging of some form to bring it back to a state where it can cool again. The mat should last for many years, but please keep an eye on your dog for any excessive clawing or chewing.

You can take a look at the Wiggles and Wags cooling bed for dogs here. If you have any questions about our own range of PCM cooling mats, please get in touch.

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