Whole Dog Journal's Blog June 21, 2011

Too Hot for Hounds

Posted at 01:54PM - Comments: (6)

I doubt that WDJ readers need to be reminded to leave their dogs home, rather than allowing them to accompany them on driving errands or shopping trips, at this time of year. When it’s hot, leaving a dog in a car –even with all the windows fully down – can heat a dog to the point of heatstroke or even death within a shockingly short amount of time.

Dogs are much more susceptible to heat-related illness than adult humans; due to their smaller body mass, their internal temperatures rise much faster than ours do.

Fifteen minutes in a hot car is enough to cause a dog to suffer from heat stroke. This can be fatal, or cause permanent brain damage. Signs of developing heat stroke include:

  • excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • drooling
  • mild weakness
  • seizures
  • bloody diarrhea or vomiting
  • stupor and collapse

And yet, I see dogs parked in cars all the time! Perhaps the owner parked in the shade, and left the windows down a bit. It doesn’t matter! It’s too hot for this!

My sister, a chef, was catering an event recently when she and other members of the serving staff heard a car horn blaring in the parking lot. She joked, “It’s probably that poor dog that someone brought and left in the car; it’s probably honking the horn to save its life.” Someone was sent to go investigate, and guess what? It WAS the little dog in the car, standing with his front feet on the steering wheel in an effort to reach the cooler air coming in the cracked open window on the driver’s door. An announcement was made, and the abashed owner summoned. My sister said the entire staff gave the person hard looks. I might have been tempted to flatten the guy’s tires or worse.

Dogs inside cars are not the only ones who suffer in the heat. Dogs who ride in the backs of trucks are at extreme risk of heat-related illness, too. Truck beds – whether they are lined or not – get hot enough to fry an egg in the sun, so why would you make your dog stand or sit on such a surface? Plus, the hot air quickly can quickly dehydrate a dog, whose main tool for regulating his body temperature is panting. Once the dog gets dehydrated, he can’t keep himself cool, and heat stroke can follow rapidly.

If you see any of these symptoms in a dog who has been exposed to excessive heat, get help from a veterinarian immediately.

A better solution? Leave your dogs home on hot days. As much as they may enjoy taking a ride with you in the car or truck, be a responsible pet owner and make them stay home.

And if you see a dog locked in a hot car (or tied in the back of a truck in the hot sun), call the local police department. In most communities, the police (or good Samaritans) may break a car window to free a dog if the dog’s life appears to be in danger.

Comments (6)

I live in Tucson, Arizona and, snowbirds, especially, do not understand that cement or asphalt gets too hot for naked paws. I have seen a guide dog waiting at a light lifting each paw individually trying to keep her paws from burning.
The other issue is even when the temperatures are pleasant the sun is usually intense in Tucson. With the sun beating down, a car heats up very quickly, so unless it is raining, which happens 10 days a year!, Tucson is not a place to leave dogs in cars at all.

Posted by: Jane N | June 28, 2011 12:25 PM    Report this comment

First, I totally agree that dogs should not be left in a parked car for any prolonged length of time. But lets get real, is it any cooler in a dog house or in a yard on a hot day than in a parked car with windows down for a few minutes ? I think most dogs are tougher than that.

Posted by: Stephen R | June 24, 2011 10:15 AM    Report this comment

One of my dogs goes to doggy daycare while I'm at work several times a week. We are resolving some separation issues. In the past I've always taken a second set of keys so that when I need to stop I can let the car running with the air on and lock it up. My remote won't work with the car running. Unfortunately the other day I came out of a convenience store to find her head sticking out the drivers window and the window was all the way down. I was horrified. She had stepped on the power window button and the drivers window does not lock. So I will have to run any errands on days I don't have her. It makes me a little sick to think what could have happened to her.

Posted by: Clarence G | June 22, 2011 10:55 PM    Report this comment

My dog goes to work with me most days. I try not to have any stops to make after work, but if I have to leave him in the truck for even just a few minutes (and it's never more than a few), I make sure it is cooled down to start with, and then leave it running with the air on. Keys need to be in the ignition of course, so I remove the remote from my key-chain and take that with me so I can still lock it up. If it's going to be super hot, the dog stays home, no matter how much he wants to go to work that day.

Posted by: MARIE K | June 21, 2011 7:03 PM    Report this comment

We have a rescue which was left in an SUV in July in Florida by a puppy mill broker bringing in a shipment. He was one of the lucky ones. He survived.

He spent a week in intensive care. It was six months before his organs had stabilized enough to allow him to be neutered. His initial vet bill was enough that the rescue group was going to have him put down. His white blood cells were completely destroyed as if had an immune disorder. He even smelled bad for those six months no matter how many times he was washed.

Marvin can tell you all about hot cars. Unfortunately most of the other dogs in the shipment can not.

Posted by: Susan T | June 21, 2011 3:41 PM    Report this comment

Any tips for the inevitable yet necessary rest stop trips on long car rides? I am never gone more than 5-10 minutes depending on lines but I do worry about my pups out in the car, since there is never any shade to park in.

Posted by: mweidman | June 21, 2011 3:18 PM    Report this comment

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