COLUMBIA — Black lab mix Millie shook her fur and lapped at the air, trying to take in some water from a spray bottle Tuesday afternoon. The spritz was cool relief in the uncooled metal warehouse where the Central Missouri Humane Society keeps Millie and about 40 other dogs.
Some dogs welcome the spray from shelter relations coordinator Allison Toth, but others shy away. Breezy, an overweight beagle, prefers to nap on the concrete floor, which, while not cold, is not as hot as the air temperature.
How to tell if your pet is in danger of a heat stroke:
- If your cat is panting (cats rarely pant).
- If a pet's gums are bright red, brick red, bluish or purplish instead of pink.
- If a dog is panting uncontrollably or frantically.
- If your pet is looking extremely listless or dazed in the heat.
If your pet shows these symptoms:
- Give it cool water.
- Place a cool, wet towel on it.
- Place it near a fan or in an air-conditioned space.
- Bring it to an emergency veterinary clinic.
Other tips for pets in the heat:
- Limit your pet's outdoor activity, and don't encourage your dog to do its favorite activity in the heat. It'll usually go until it drops.
- Don't leave your pet in a car, even if the window is open slightly. The temperature inside a car can become deadly extremely quickly.
- Give your pet a haircut. Shaving long-haired pets can help to keep them cooler in the heat.
- If possible, let your dogs play in water, in kiddie pools, sprinklers or lakes and ponds.
Source: Dr. Richard Meadows and the Central Missouri Humane Society
“Sometimes I feel like I’m torturing them,” Toth said, joking about the dogs that shy away from the spray bottle.
The Central Missouri Humane Society has made a temporary home since May in the Mid-City Lumber Building, 2105 Paris Road. Its permanent location at 616 Big Bear Blvd. is undergoing Zootoo-funded renovations; only finishing touches remain before the people and the animals can move back in within the next few weeks.
"It's definitely not ideal," Toth said. "It’s hasn’t been much of a problem until these 90-plus, 100-plus temperatures."
Life wasn't overly hard for the cats and rabbits that were housed in the front part of the building until a few weeks ago when the air conditioning stopped working. Now, they have to settle for fans.
The dogs in the metal warehouse can’t seem to catch a break, though. Tuesday, the waist-high fan that used to blow in air from the warehouse’s open garage door stopped spinning.
And though there are a few fans working in the kennels, they're not enough to relieve the kind of heat that soaks a T-shirt with sweat within minutes. As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, the heat index in Columbia was 107 degrees Fahrenheit. The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning through Friday.
Heat such as this can create dangerous conditions for pets, said Richard Meadows, director of the community practice at MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He said cats and dogs are less heat-tolerant than humans for two main reasons:
- They don’t sweat much, other than through the pads of their feet and the tips of their noses.
- They pant to lose heat, but it’s a less efficient cooling method than sweating.
“If it’s too hot for you to be outside, it’s too hot for your pets to be outside, because they’re wearing a fur coat,” Meadows said.
In addition to fans and the occasional sprays from bottles, Humane Society staff are trying to keep the dogs safe by brushing them, ensuring they have cool, fresh water and taking them out for walks.
Even the treats are intended to refresh: the staff feeds the rabbits chilled carrots, lettuce or fruit from time to time.
One lucky cat, Buffy, was relieved of some hair Monday because her fur was matted. The “lion head” cut left her with a long tail, the fur on her head and a whole lot less fur on her body. Toth said the haircut came at a good time considering the heat wave.
“She is so much more playful now,” she said. “I think she’s embarrassed, but she seems happier and a lot cooler.”
Toth said the employees and volunteers have increased their diligence in monitoring the animals. If they notice a dog panting excessively, they take it out of the warehouse, point a fan directly at it and give it ice. She also emphasized the importance of maintaining fresh, cool water for the animals.
Humane Society Manager Nick Holman acknowledges that there’s more to it, but he jokingly summarizes the shelter's plan of action during the heat wave: “Just add water.”