I recently read a blog post written by a new mom who admitted to forgetting her infant in the car while she went into the store to buy groceries. In the first 6 months to a year, we are so utterly exhausted that, while it never happened to me, I get that if the baby was asleep she could have forgotten about him. She was lucky she lived in a place where her car didn’t heat up to 150F. Fortunately for dog owners, it’s nearly impossible to forget you have a dog in the car. Even if it dozed off during the drive, as soon as the car stopped it would be up and wiggling in excitement.
A surefire way to kill your dog is to leave him in the car in hot weather. Thousands of dogs die from heatstroke and suffocation in hot cars each year. The interior of the car will heat up like an oven in just minutes. Even on a relatively cool 78F day, a car parked in the shade can get up to 90F, and in the sun up to 160F! Don’t rely on leaving your windows down because it won’t cool the car enough and you run the risk of the dog escaping or biting a passer-by. You can’t count on your air conditioner either. There have been several reported cases of dogs dying when left in a car because the air conditioner compressor shut down when the engine got too hot.
The best way to protect your dog from a dangerous situation like this is to leave him at home when you run errands.
Dogs don’t sweat like we do, in fact they only sweat through their paw pads. They cool off by panting, so if the air they are breathing is too hot, their panting doesn’t effectively cool them. It can take as little as 15 minutes for a dog’s body temperature to skyrocket and cause damage to the brain, nervous system, cardiovascular system, or even death.
Signs of heatstroke include restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination. The dog needs to be cooled off and given water to drink. You have to be careful not to lower his temperature too much or too fast. You can cool him off with a garden hose, put him in a tub of cool water, or apply cool wet towels to his groin, stomach, chest, and paws. Don’t put him in icy cold water. Get him to a vet
If you see a dog in distress in a parked car, call 911. Give them all the details of the car and stay to make sure someone shows up. The following 14 states have statutes that prohibit leaving an animal confined or unattended in a parked vehicle under conditions that endanger the animal’s life: AZ, CA, IL, ME, MD, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NY, ND, SD, VT, and WV. While some of the statutes are specific about the conditions, like extreme temperatures, others are vague, only stating that physical injury or death is likely to result.
Rachel Doyle is a blogger and animal lover with DogTrainingCollars.com who often writes about everything from basic pet health tips to reviews on excellent obedience training equipment for your dogs.