Extreme heat in the high 90s killed a local cat last week, and nearly killed two dogs, and those are just the cases I've heard about. We're in the early weeks of what promises to be a long, hot summer, so it's time for the annual column that I call "hot weather pet care tips for really stupid people."
My editorial co-workers are much more polite in the headlines they put over columns warning people not to leave dogs in hot cars. When the outside temperature is 71 degrees, the temperature inside a car rockets to more than 116 degrees after an hour in the sun, according to a study done by Stanford University researchers. "Cracking" the windows open hardly slowed the temperature rise, they said.
Every year dogs and children die in hot cars.
When temperatures approach 100 degrees, day after day, dogs and cats are also at risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion in their own yards and in houses without air conditioning.
Three heat victims were brought to the Animal Rescue League shelter in Larimer on June 28 and 29. The veterinary staff could not save the cat. The two dogs survived.
A resident in an East End neighborhood of Pittsburgh had been keeping an eye on a Labrador retriever because he was outside for hours. When the dog collapsed, the woman called Pittsburgh Animal Control, and officers took the dog to the shelter.
The dog's temperature was 106 degrees. Normal temperature is 100.5-102.5, according to the vetmedicine.about.com website. When a dog's temperature goes over 103.5 degrees, the dog is getting too hot, shelter veterinarian Donna Hughes said in an email to ARL staff. Veterinary care is needed, or a dog can die as major organs shut down.
The Lab seemed to be recovering but could not walk. The staff feared he had brain damage. There was rejoicing in the shelter and on the ARL Facebook page last Saturday, when the dog stood up and walked. But more than 80 FB friends were howling for charges to be filed against the dog's owner.
Things aren't always as they seem. Turns out the owners were out of town on vacation and the yellow dog got away from the person entrusted with his care. The dog was running loose when he collapsed on a sidewalk.
The owners have reclaimed the dog. An investigation indicates the dog has been well-cared for except for this instance. It's not clear whether charges will be filed against the temporary care-giver.
The three incidents prompted Ms. Hughes to address the staff about hot weather care. She said dogs and cats should not be in temperatures above 85 degrees for more than 15 minutes -- in the shelter, on walks, and during off-site events and activities. Temperatures inside an un-airconditioned house could easily climb over 85 degrees.
Dogs and cats can't sweat and cool off like people do. They release body heat to a very limited degree through their paw pads and when they pant.
Warning signs of heat stroke including excessive panting, rapid breathing, lethargy, drooling and vomiting. At greatest risk are older pets and flat-faced animals, including pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats.
All pets should have constant access to cool, clean water. Walks should be early morning or evening. Mushers Secret wax, which protects dog paws from ice balls and sidewalk salt in the winter, can protect paws on hot sidewalks and hot sand.
For 17 years I lived with a pug named Twerp, and for much of her life we did not have air conditioning. In weather like we're having now, every day I put her in the bathtub and run cool water until it reached her belly.
Shelter vets offer similar advice:
Add fans for cats and continue to spray dogs with water. Apply cold packs to the groin area and paw pads of dogs to cool them down. Spray rubbing alcohol on dog paw pads, but not on the paws of cats that lick their feet to groom themselves.
Some dogs and most cats don't enjoy baths. You can try the cold packs to the groin or buy cooling vests designed to be soaked in water and worn by a hot dog. Some vests have pockets for cold packs. Some dogs will sit still long enough to wear a cold, wet towel.
If anyone has tips for cooling off hot cats, I'd love to hear them.
The Steel City Pet Expo on June 30 attracted lots of dogs and people. There were some happy endings, including the adoption of 18 kittens from the Animal Rescue League.
Would you believe someone parked at the Monroeville Convention Center and left a dog in the car? No excuse for that because dogs were welcome at the air-conditioned expo.
A loudspeaker announcer said the owner had two minutes to get the dog out of the car before steps were taken to intervene. The owner apparently stepped up.
The lighted leashes of hundreds of dogs will brighten the Roberto Clemente Bridge near PNC Park at 9 p.m. Friday during the second annual Pittsburgh Pup Crawl.
Proceeds benefit the three big Allegheny County shelters -- Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center and Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.
It's $20 per dog if you register in advance at www.pghpupcrawl.org until noon on Friday. Registration is $30 at the walk, starting at 7:45 p.m., which is also the start time for games, contests, vendors, adoptions and a live band. Dog walkers get a T-shirt. Last year, 300 dogs participated.
Information: 412-321-4625, ext. 248.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064.