It is officially summer, and the temperatures across the nation keep rising. Unfortunately, summer is also the time that many dogs and other pets suffer from heat stroke due to being left in vehicles in high temps.
We love bringing our beloved pups with us to run errands and to take drives around town, but these short trips can quickly turn dangerous when we pop into a store for even a few minutes. Leaving your dog in a hot car for even 10 minutes can be fatal.
Although the temperature outside does not seem that hot to humans, heat can quickly get trapped inside a car—especially if there is no way for it to get out, like through a cracked window. Even with windows partially open or the car parked under shade, cars can reach extreme temperatures in under 10 minutes. The hotter the temperature is outside, the faster the inside of your car will become a very dangerous environment for your pooch.
Interior car surfaces can also absorb heat and become extremely hot to the touch—you’ll understand this if you’ve ever reached for your seatbelt and scorched yourself on the metal clasp on a hot, sunny day. Hot surfaces like your smooth leather seats can cause pain to your pooch, particularly on their paws, which can be burned.
Dogs and other animals can experience heat stroke quickly in situations like these. Dogs aren’t able to sweat and stay cool in the same ways as we do. Instead, they pant. Excessive panting will cause your dog to lose bodily moisture and get dehydrated quickly.
Being trapped in high temperatures may cause your dog to scratch, whine and endure extreme stress and anxiety, as well as vomit, have diarrhea and experience seizures. Heat stroke can lead to brain damage, organ failure, nervous system failure and, unfortunately, death. Even if you return to your car before the heat becomes fatal, you will have put your pooch through serious terror and stress.
Additionally, your state or city may already have laws in place that prohibit leaving your dog unattended in a hot car. In areas where these actions are illegal, pet owners can face hefty fines and even jail time for what is considered animal neglect or abuse. Even if the law does not prohibit this behavior, though, you should, under no circumstance, leave your dog unattended in a hot car.
Helping a dog in heat stroke
People seem to have a talent for identifying dogs through car windows, even when we aren’t looking for them. If you come across a vehicle that has a dog stuck inside and the temperatures are high, don’t just walk away! Without your help, the dog could face serious health problems or death.
If the dog appears to be okay, write down the license plate number and description of the vehicle and enter the nearest business. Ask the manager to make an announcement requesting the owner to return to their vehicle to attend to their pet. In most situations, pet owners will rush out for their dog, usually because they forgot they left them there.
If the dog appears to be in distress when you first see it in the car, call local law enforcement right away. They will come investigate the situation and get the dog out as soon as possible to have it treated.
Other considerations for summer heat
The car isn’t the only dangerous place for Fido, though. Simple walks around the block can leave your pooch panting relentlessly or with painful injuries. Concrete and asphalt can get extremely hot under the sun’s intense rays, potentially causing burns on your dog’s feet. Test the ground before taking your dog for a walk—if it is too hot to touch, it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.
Even if the ground seems bearable, be mindful of how long you walk your dog in high temperatures. Your dog can overheat quickly and get dehydrated due to excessive panting, so bring extra water with you and keep walks short. If possible, take your pup for walks earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is lower and the temperatures aren’t as severe.
If your dog goes outside throughout the day, make sure it has a shady, cool place to relax and provide ample water to drink. Even better, fill up a plastic pool for it to lay in!
If your dog begins breathing rapidly, vomiting or is extremely lethargic, take it to the vet as soon as possible—it may be suffering from heat stroke. Only with your intervention can your dog receive help during these hot, summer days.