Pet Tales: Keep animals cool in dog days of summer

It was a lovely summer day and the mood was festive as people and dogs set out on a 5-mile fundraising walk through the North Side. The temperature was nearly 90 degrees and the humidity was very high. The animal welfare organization that put on the walk provided plenty of water at multiple stations, but mid-way through the walk a 2-year-old golden retriever collapsed and died from heat stroke.

This happened several years ago. I‘‍m writing about it now because we’‍ve been having that kind of weather all week, and everywhere I drive in an air-conditioned car, I see people walking panting dogs.

When dog or cat body temperatures spike to dangerously high levels in excessive heat, major organs are damaged. If a pet collapses in the heat, it should be rushed to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Some can be saved.The average veterinary bill for heatstroke was $1,168, according to a 2013 news release from Petplan pet insurance.

On hot weather walks, make sure a dog is drinking plenty of water. I seldom see people carrying water bottles for dogs, but they should because dogs dehydrate quicker than we do. They only “sweat” from their tongues and the pads of their paws. Water is always supplied at well-organized dog events, but that doesn‘‍t do any good unless you make sure your dog is drinking plenty of it.

Here‘‍s another hot weather risk that most people don’‍t think about: If sidewalks and roads are too hot for you to take a barefoot stroll, it could be hot enough to burn the paw pads of dogs and cats, according to Pets Best insurance. They suggest you walk dogs on dirt or grass when temperatures soar. I suggest putting the palm of your hand on the sidewalk and holding it there. How‘‍s that feel? Better yet, pick up your dogs paw and feel the pads. If they’‍re hot, take a break in the shade or bring the outing to an end.

During summers and winters, we should frequently check paws for cuts or cracks. The Musher’‍s Secret Wax that protects pads from ice and chemical salts in the winter offers some protection against hot sidewalks and hot sand in the summer. 

Some breeds of dogs are at higher risk for heat stroke, including heavy-coated breeds whose origins go back to very cold climes, including Newfoundlands, Alaskan malamutes, Great Pyrenees and Siberian huskies.

I‘‍d keep a very close eye on Labrador retrievers (origins in Newfoundland and England) and golden retrievers (origins in Scotland). Labs have thick double coats and goldens have long coats. Both breeds were bred to have a high tolerance to pain so they could hunt all day. Labs and goldens will gleefully walk or run for miles no matter how hot they get and may not exhibit early warning signs of heat stroke.

Persian cats and short-nosed dog breeds, including pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers and French bulldogs, are at high risk in the heat, too. Dogs and cats can overheat in their own house if there is no air-conditioning.  

My pug, Twerp, lived most of her 17 years in a house with no A/C. It was a bit scary coming home from work on 90-degree days. A very hot, heavily panting Twerp would run upstairs and jump into the bathtub. Slightly cool -- not ice cold -- water that reached up to her belly cooled her down.

Dogs and cats can be cooled down, indoors and out, by draping them with wet towels. I‘‍ve seen pugs and French bulldogs wearing little water-filled vests that were cooled in the refrigerator. They’‍re available online and in specialty pet stores.

Dogs that go hiking or hunting should have first-aid kits that include Neosporin for cuts and bites. I‘‍ve used it for years, and Twerp’‍s veterinarian said it won‘‍t hurt the dog if they lick it off the cut or wound. However, I’‍ve since been told to use only the original Neosporin, and not Neosporin with “pain relief.”

Now here comes my annual warning: Don‘‍t leave dogs unattended in cars during very hot weather. When the outside temperature is just 71 degrees, the temperature inside the car will top 116 degrees in an hour, according to a study done by Stanford University. “Cracking” the windows open a few inches will make virtually no difference.

In my own unscientific study on an 85-degree day, the car temperature reached 140 degrees in 30 minutes.

Monroeville shelter event

Kittens and cats and dogs and puppies are getting a day out from the Monroeville Animal Shelter on Sunday at the Murrysview Shoppes, 5030 William Penn Highway (15146). 

Pets that are looking for homes have been invited by Zamagias Properties to participate in a Customer Appreciation Event anchored by Pool City and Pat Catan’‍s. There will be raffles to raise money for the medical care of the shelter animals.

Free pet expo

The Steel City Pet Expo is next Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd., Downtown (15222). The event is free, parking is free and you can bring your pet.

A wide array of trainers, groomers and other experts will be on hand, as well as adoptable animals from shelters and rescue organizations. The Facebook page promises “spa treatments” from groomers, treat samples, agility demonstrations, pet talent shows and pet costume shows.

You can also meet Shorty Rossi and Hercules from Animal Planet show “The Pit Boss.”

South Side festival

The Double Wide Grill is hosting the second annual Lucky’‍s South Side Dog Festival on June 29, noon to 5 p.m. in the 2400 block of East Carson Street. The event is free and open to the public and their pups. Activities include face painting, a doggie talent show, games and contests for howling, owner/dog look-alikes and best owner/dog kiss.

The Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center will bring adoptable dogs.

The Double Wide grill was the first business in Allegheny County to legally provide a “designated dog section” at the South Side restaurant. It has scheduled a July 20 Lucky’‍s Mars Area Dog festival at the Double Wide Grill on Route 228 in the Adams Shoppes.

Celebrity service dog

A golden retriever named Tuesday is the “star” of a best-selling book, has traveled all over the country and has been on “The Late Show With David Letterman” to raise awareness that service dogs like him can help wounded warriors overcome physical disabilities, brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tuesday and his partner, retired Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan, will be at Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horne Road, Ohio Township at 3 p.m. June 29, Tickets are $25; $20 for military personnel. Premium $65 tickets include lunch with Tuesday and Captain Montalvan and an autographed copy of their book. Seating is limited, so tickets should be purchased in advance at or can be reserved by calling 412-847-7055.

Mr. Montalvan, injured in multiple combat tours in Iraq, wrote the best-selling “Until Tuesday” and a recently released children‘‍s book, “Tuesday Tucks Me in: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog.”

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.