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
- mild weakness
- 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.