AUTHOR: DIONE L.BLACK, LVT
With the arrival of the summer months and beautiful warm sunny days, this is a good time to remind pet owners of the dangers of leaving their beloved pet in parked cars, even for a minute.
Like everyone else in the beautiful state of Washington, I happily anticipate the arrival of the summer months, looking forward to the sunny days, soaring temperatures and days at the lake. As a Licensed Veterinary Technician, the anticipation is a little more somber. With the days heating up, I know that I, and the rest of the staff at All Creatures Animal Hospital, will begin to see pets, mostly dogs, being rushed to the clinic who are suffering from heat stroke. Many of these heat stroke suffers are brought to us by naïve owners who did not understand the dangers of leaving there pet in a parked car on a sunny, or in most cases, a warm, overcast day.
The temperature in a parked car, even in the shade and with the widows cracked, can reach temperatures well over 100 degrees F in as little as 10 minutes. Stanford University School of Medicine has conducted studies of the temperature rises that occur in parked cars on days with highs ranging from 72 to 96 degrees F. There results will surprise most people. They found that the interior of a car can increase in temperature by an average of 40 degrees F within one hour, regardless of the temperature outside the car. They also conclude that 80% of the temperature increase occurred within the first 30 minutes! This information tells us that even on what most people would consider a relatively cool day; the interior of a parked car can become an oven for you and your dog very quickly. If you question the results of these findings, please feel free to test them out for yourself. On a warm, sunny day park your car in the parking lot of, lets say, Wal-Mart and shut your engine off. Go ahead and crack all your windows if you would like. I guarantee you that in a few short minutes the heat will become unbearable! You can step out of your car at any time, your dog can not. As the temperature rises, so does his distress.
The anatomy of a dog is designed to conserve heat for those cold winter months.
The sweat glands of a dog are on their noses and on the pads of their feet and on a very warm day, a dog’s sweat glands are not very effective in keeping them cool. They must also be able to pant and drink plenty of fresh, cool water to cool themselves further. When a dog is trapped in a car where the temperature of the air inside is rising to elevated temperatures, panting heavily, thus inhaling the heated air, is not very effective in cooling the dog. Brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds like Pugs, Boston Terriers etc…, the young, the old, the overweight and dogs with other health issues such as cardiovascular disease, are more prone to heat stroke. Heat stroke is a very serious condition that many dogs face every summer. The symptoms of heat stroke are:
- heavy panting
- glazed eyes
- profuse salivation
- increased pulse
- very red gums and/or tongue
- staggering gait
- inability to rise after collapsing
- loss of consciousness
If your pet is suffering from heat stroke it is very important to cool him down immediately, but not too quickly, otherwise you can send his body into shock. The following are tips on how to cool your dog down safely:
- move your pet into the shade
- apply cool (not cold) water all over their body
- apply ice packs or cool towels to your pets head, neck and chest only
- offer your pet small amounts of cool water
- use a fan to cool your pet
- never cool your pet so much that it starts to shiver
After you have cooled your pet down, it is still imperative that you take them to a Veterinarian for immediate medical care. Heat stroke can cause brain and organ damage and they will need emergency supportive care that only a licensed Veterinarian can provide if they are to survive. You can not treat heat stroke at home! Even with supportive care it is possible that your pet may die or have permanent impairment due to the heat stroke.
Here are some tips to prevent your pet from suffering heat stroke:
- leave your pet at home on warm days
- if you must take your pet with you, call ahead to make sure your destination is pet friendly and take plenty of cool, clean water with you
- do not leave your pet in a parked car EVER, EVEN FOR A MINUTE
- provide access to plenty of fresh, clean water at all times
- allow your pet access to cool, ventilated, shaded areas on warm days
- groom your dog regularly to get rid of excess hair
- give long coated breeds haircuts at the beginning of summer
- provide a “kiddie pool” for you pet to lounge in if it likes
- walk you pet in the early morning or early evening when temperatures are at their coolest
- do not allow your pet to play or exercise excessively in hot weather
We all love your dogs dearly and want to spend as much time with them as we can, especially in the summer months. But occasionally our need to spend time with our dogs can have a very sad and devastating outcome. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I only left him in there for a minute” from frantic owners of dogs suffering from heat stroke.
In the state of Washington a pet owner can be charged with a misdemeanor and subject to arrest for willfully confining a domestic animal in a manner of confinement that will jeopardize the safety of the animal. Leaving your dog in a parked car on a warm day, subjecting your pet to dangerously high temperatures, falls into this definition.
Watch the video of Dr. Ward’s, a licensed Veterinarian, self test of the rising heat in a parked car at www.ebaumsworld.com. Search for “Vet sits in parked car”.
For more information on the dangers of leaving your dog in a hot car, please visit redrover.org/mydogiscool.