Animal Control and local veterinarian warn pet owners about hot car dangers

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) - The Animal Control section with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said they see more calls of pets locked in hot cars during the summer months than any other time of year. While they don't track the exact number of reported cases, they are taking time to warn pet owners as temperatures are expected to rise across the Ozarks this week.

In a statement, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said, "There is often a misconception about how quickly the interior of a vehicle can get unbearably hot." The statement to KY3 and KSPR News continued, "According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it takes just 10 minutes for an outside temperature of 90 degrees to become 109 inside a vehicle." The statement ended with a reminder that a person should never leave a pet unattended inside a hot car for any length of time.

Heath Wiseman, Veterinarian and co-owner of the Springfield Veterinary Center, agreed and said it's pretty simple. "We can make this interview very short, don't take your dogs with you when you go run errands," said Wiseman.

Wiseman said Missouri's heat and humidity are just two of the ingredients that can make things extra tough for our furry friends. "If the humidity is above 35%, which it doesn't take much to get above 35%, their ability to dissipate heat diminishes," he said. Wiseman said some other factors people need to think about include a dog's breed, general health status, and age.

At the end of the day, the best message Wiseman and Animal Control can send is encouraging people to call police if they see an animal trapped in a hot car. Police work with Animal Control to respond to those calls. Animal Control said they will issue a ticket for animal cruelty in cases of pets being neglected during hot weather. A violation could result in up to a $1,000 fine and/or no more than 180 days in jail.

Wiseman said pet owners also need to be mindful of heatstroke and burned paws this summer.

Wiseman said it's important all animals have fresh water, shade or some sort of shelter, and good ventilation. He said this is especially important for animals that are usually kept outdoors. Even if they are acclimated, things can get tough for them.

First signs of a heatstroke include panting and agitation in an animal. "If they vomit that's one of the next things that can come along, or they start having diarrhea, they could potentially collapse too," said Wiseman.

Wiseman said if something does happen and a pet owner thinks their dog or animal is suffering from a heatstroke, they can soak blankets or towels in cool water and wrap the animal in them. He warned people not to submerge an animal in an ice bath. "We don't want to cool them down too much or too rapidly," he said. He said once the dog or animal is wrapped in the soaked blankets or towels, the owner should bring them to a veterinarian immediately.

One of the final concerns Wiseman reviewed was burned paws. He said it is not far-fetched to think it could happen to our dogs here in the Ozarks. He reminded everyone to put ourselves in their shoes ... or paws in this case. "Would you walk barefooted out on the sidewalk when the sun is beating down and it's 95?" he asked. "You probably wouldn't."

The Springfield Veterinary Center is located at 330 Battlefield Road in Springfield, the phone number is (417) 887-8030.