To a dog, there’s nothing more exciting than going for a ride, having the window rolled down and feeling the wind in your ears. However, when the car stops and owners run a “quick” errand, what can happen to your pet is dangerous. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), hundreds of pets die in hot cars each year. Time passes faster than owners realize and car temperatures can climb to well over 115 degrees, putting your pet’s life in danger.
How fast does a car’s temperature rise? Here are some examples:
When it’s 70 degrees outside, your car’s temperature inside is 89 degrees after just 10 minutes and up to 104 degrees after a half hour. If you’re traveling with your pet on an 85 degree day, your car’s temperature is 104 degrees after 10 minutes and nearly 120 degrees after a half hour. Pets cool themselves by panting and through their skin and have a harder time cooling down in hot weather. In a hot car, heat stroke can happen in just a few minutes.
What to do if you see a pet in a hot car
Take caution when you see a pet in a hot car. If you identify a pet is in distress in a hot vehicle, the best thing to do is contact local law enforcement. Some states have laws against leaving a pet in a hot car, however, it varies. Obtain guidance from law enforcement before taking action and breaking a car window on your own. Once you call law enforcement, stay by the vehicle and keep an eye on the pet until help arrives.
How to treat a pet with heat stroke
First, it’s important to know the signs of a heat stroke:
Warning signs: panting, drooling and lethargy
Advanced stage: grey or blue gums, limp body posture with heavy breathing and the pet may be in shock
Cooling the Pet Down
- Get your pet to an air-conditioned environment
- Work to cool the pet down by wetting the ears and pads of the feet with cool water (do not use frigid water, use cool water).
- Place cool, wet towels over the shoulder/neck, under the front legs and in the groin area
- Refresh the water frequently
- If the pet will drink, provide cool water or small ice chips
What to do if the pet is unresponsive
- Call an emergency veterinarian immediately and tell them you’re on your way.
- If the gums are gray/blue, they are in need of immediate treatment and should be rushed to the nearest emergency treatment center.
- They will help cool the dog and administer subcutaneous fluids.
Additional Tips for Pet Owners in the Summer
- Short-nosed, long-haired and young dogs are more at risk and prone to heat stroke.
- On hot days, limit exercising your pet to early morning or evening hours.
- Asphalt gets very hot and could burn your pet’s paws.
- Pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. It’s safe to use sunscreen on their noses and ear tips.
If you’re going out during the summer, it’s best to keep your pet at home, in a cool, air-conditioned environment.