The “Dog Days of Summer” are upon us again, with that being said one of my pet peeves is pulling into any shopping mall, gas station, parking lot and seeing some one’s beloved pet sitting in a locked car. Most people know on 100 degree days, not to leave their pet in the car, but there’s just as much danger on those “cooler” days. Cars heat up fast even with the windows cracked. Even when the car is parked in the shade animals (and kids and the elderly) can succumb to heatstroke or death if left unattended.
I’m just like anyone else that treats their pet as a family member, when I go somewhere I want to take my pet with me. But realistically that isn’t always possible. You have to put your pet first. If I’m boiling in my car, you can be sure a pet that is closed up in a vehicle while you run that errand that “will take just a minute” is going to suffer.
On a typical 85 degree day, even with the windows left slightly open, temperatures inside your car can reach 102 degrees in ten minutes and reach 120 degrees in just half an hour. On hotter days, the hotter that temperature will soar. Outside temperatures in the 70’s can be just as dangerous. A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees. Dogs can withstand a body temperature of 107 to 108 degrees for a very short time before suffering brain damage or even death.
Here are some tips for taking your pet with you:
- Shop at pet-friendly stores.
- Use the drive-up if possible.
- If you must leave the pet in the car, park in the shade. Leash or kennel the dog and leave a responsible family member with the pet with the doors and windows open; or, under adult supervision, leave the car running with the A/C on for a quick trip into a store.
- Be sure to always bring water and a bowl with you. Keep yourself and your pet hydrated.
We are the voices of animals. If you see a pet left unattended and you know who owns the vehicle, something as simple as “hey, your pet looks really hot in there” can be enough to get the pet out of a potentially dangerous situation. If you don’t know the owner or pet, find the restaurant/store manager and report it. You can also print out some handy flyers from My Dog is Cool.com. You can also contact animal control to report a situation (often they’ll ask for a license plate number in case the car has already left and they will send a notice by mail). If you’re uncomfortable reporting a situation please find a store manager, friend or relative to assist you.
Just as importantly as getting a pet removed from such a dangerous situation is being able to recognize signs of heatstroke. Cats and Dogs have little choice when it comes to keeping cool in summer heat. Imagine living in 100 degree weather and being bundled up like an Eskimo with no way to remove your clothing and the only way to cool off was by panting.
Some signs of heatstroke are (but not limited to):
- Body temperatures of 104-110F degrees
- Excessive panting
- Dark or bright red tongue and gums
- Sticky or dry tongue and gums
- Bloody diarrhea or vomiting
If you suspect heatstroke in your pet, Seek immediate veterinary attention!
- Find some shade, get your pet out of the heat
- Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (ice water will constrict blood vessels and impede cooling down)
- Place cool wet cloths around head and feet
- Do not aid cooling below 103 degrees, this can then result in hypothermia
- Offer ice cubes for your pet to lick on until you reach the vet. Do not force water or ice to your pet.
Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are more at risk for heat stroke.
Just because your animal is cooled and “appears” OK, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this.
When in doubt, leave your pet in the safety of your home.