Animal experts offer pet owners heat safety tips

Friday, June 29, 2012 | 9:51 p.m. CDT; updated 6:29 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 2, 2012

With the heat advisory in effect this weekend, pet and farm owners should pay extra attention to animals vulnerable to hot weather.

“You cannot leave dogs outside too long in case they get overheated in such hot weather,” Danielle Burlis, volunteer coordinator for the Central Missouri Humane Society, said.

So far, no dogs at the Humane Society have been reported ill due to heat, although heat stroke is a major concern during a heatwave, Colin LaVaute, shelter relations coordinator for the Central Missouri Humane Society, said.

“We do not have any animals experience heat stroke yet, and we take every precaution to make sure animals here have adequate water,” LaVaute said. “If we take dogs outside, we never leave them outside.”

But Burlis said there have been reports of Columbia Animal Control taking in dogs that were left in the heat, stuck inside cars during the day with no owner in sight. 

“I knew that at least one or two dogs took in by the Animal Control because of heat-related issues,” Burlis said. “I do not know the exact amount, but I heard the information from an Animal Control officer.”

LaVaute said the shelter has a sprinkler system outside to keep dogs cool when they go out. He also said most of animals stay in air-conditioned rooms.

The MU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital hasn't received any pets with heat-related illness, but they too warn that extra precaution needs to be taken with pets during the sweltering heat.

“Early warning signs for pets experiencing heat stroke include excess panting and having their tongues hang out,” Marie Kerl, associate teaching professor for emergency and critical care at the Veterinary medical teaching hospital, said. "And they always want to seek cool places."

“If you miss the early warning signs of heat stroke, the dogs may collapse or coma,” Kerl said.

Dogs aren't the only animals vulnerable to hot weather. Chickens are also susceptible to heat-related illness, and pet owners with chickens need to provide water and shelter to keep the animals from getting ill.

"If chickens are not handled properly, egg production may decrease and they may have a risk of dying," Adam Saunders, co-founder of Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, said. 

More tips to keep animals safe

Dogs and cats:

  • Always keep them indoors; never leave them outside for more than 15 minutes.
  • If you do let them outdoors, make it the early morning or late evening.
  • Dogs regulate their body temperature very well by panting. Do not try to add ice to their water to help them out.
  • Always provide shade and fresh water.
  • Never leave them in cars.
  • Keeping their hair short can help them cool off.
  • Avoid extra activities outside. Their feet can burn on the hot concrete in the city.
  • If pets are found overheated, go to a veterinary hospital immediately.
  • In addition, do not bring them to the Fourth of July fireworks display downtown. Dogs and cats have very sensitive ears and they may panic and run away.


  • Provide consistent access to water so they can regulate their body temperature and stay hydrated.
  • Keep fresh air circulating in their coops.

Supervising editor is Dan Burley.

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