Vets offer advice on keeping pets safe during hot weather

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COLUMBIA – Missouri is in for a lot of heat and humidity over the next several days. Veterinarians warn the heat can be very dangerous for your pets.

"If it's going to be really hot and it's going to be really humid, just don't take them out," said Dr. Becky Markenson with Pet Center, Ltd. in Columbia. "Keep them inside. Keep them where it's cool and there's air conditioning."

She said, however, if you have to take your dog outside, make sure to have water and make sure shade is nearby. 

Markenson also said pet owners need to understand just how hot it can get in a car with the windows rolled up.

"Make sure that at no point in time you’re going to leave your dog in the car," she said.

Tanner Fortune, who walks his Australian/pit bull mix regularly at Columbia’s Twin Lakes Dog Park, said his dog, Ozzy, is a hardy dog, but when it’s hot outside, his main priority is keeping him off the hot pavement.

“If you can’t hold your bare hand on the pavement for five seconds, then it’s too hot to walk your dog,” Fortune said. “So, on days like today, I like to make sure we keep him on the grass where it’s not going to be searing his paws.”

Markenson said some owners never consider the temperature of the road or sidewalk.

"A lot of people don't think about their pets and their feet," she said. "They think that they're really callous and that dogs don't really feel those things, but they can." 

Fortune said overheating is another concern.

“Even with short hair, you know, Ozzy gets really energetic, and when he starts running around, it could take him half an hour or even an hour to cool back down,” Fortune said.

Markenson said signs of heatstroke are:

  • Becoming lethargic,
  • Excessive panting,
  • Excessive drooling,
  • Stumbling
  • Gum colors changing. 

She said these are all signs that your dog is under some stress. Markenson said owners who spot those symptoms should give the pet lukewarm water, put damp towels around their neck and armpits, and cool their paw pads with cool water or alcohol.

"If they can drink water, you can offer them water, but don't force water down their throats though," she said. 

Heat advisories are in effect for western Mid-Missouri. Temperatures will be the hottest for the area so far this year, reaching the middle 90s, with a heat index near 101.