Summer months can be a bit uncomfortable, even dangerous for pets and people. It can be difficult enough to adjust to rising temperatures, let alone thick humidity. The Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services (PHHS) wants to help residents keep their pets safe and cool this summer with these tips from the Columbia/Boone County Animal Control Division and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Never leave pets in a parked car
On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85 degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature can reach 120 degrees. Prolonged exposure to such conditions can cause a pet to suffer irreversible organ damage or even die.
Watch for signs of heatstroke
Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness. Animals are at particular risk for heatstroke if they are very old, very young, not conditioned to prolonged exercise or have heart or respiratory disease. Animals with flat faces, breeds of dogs like boxers, pugs, shih tzus and other dogs and cats with short muzzles, will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
Watch the humidity
It is important to remember that it is not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect pets. Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, pets are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels very quickly. Taking a dog's temperature will quickly indicate if there is a serious problem. It can be dangerous if a dog's temperature rises above 104 degrees. If a dog's temperature does, move them into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes and take them directly to a veterinarian.
Limit exercise on hot days
Take care when exercising a pet. Adjust the intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn a pet's paws, so walk dogs on the grass if possible. Always carry water on walks to keep a pet from dehydrating.
Provide ample shade and water
Any time pets are outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct airflow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat; in fact, it makes it worse. Any residents concerned with the safety and well-being of a pet are encouraged to call and speak with an Animal Control officer at 573.449.1888.
For more information on how to keep pets safe in extreme heat, please view the American Veterinary Medical Association website at https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Warm-Weather-Pet-Safety.aspx