Every year, hundreds of pets die when their owners make the mistake of leaving them in a parked car. We’ve all heard the excuses “I’ll be just a minute” or “But I cracked the windows”. These excuses do not amount to much when your pet becomes seriously ill or dies from being in a hot car. The temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, it can rise almost 30º F. At 60 minutes, the temperature in your vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature.
Dogs can’t cool themselves as easily as humans. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads - neither of which helps much when they are trapped in an oven or “fur coat”. Once their body temperature rises from the normal 100.5 ºF to upwards of 105 º F, they can suffer brain damage, heatstroke or death in less than fifteen minutes.
If you see a pet left alone in a hot car, or you yourself have made this mistake, look out for signs of heatstroke. These symptoms include restlessness, excessive thirst, drooling with thick saliva, pale gums, heavy panting, lack of appetite, dark tongue, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and disorientation.
If a pet is showing any of these signs, get them into an air conditioned vehicle and immediately to a veterinarian. If you are unable to transport the pet yourself, get them into an air conditioned building and call animal control – let them know it is an emergency. Provide water to drink (not iced) and if able you can place them in a tub of cool water for up to two minutes to help lower their body temperatures gradually. Applying a cool wet rag to their stomach, groin, chest and pads will also help lower their body temperature. Remember not to use too cold or iced water – we do not want to lower their temperature too quickly.
If you see a pet left alone in a car, you can call your local animal authorities or the police for help. If you do so, have the car’s color, make and license plate number available. They will also ask the current condition of the animal.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call our office at Eagle Animal Hospital (610) 458-8789. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.
Written by Alyson Kelly, veterinary technician