Since you’re reading this blog, I’ll bet you really like your dog. You may even take your dog with you to run errands or for company on your way to an appointment. Now, I don’t want to alarm you (ok, maybe I do, just a little) but you may be putting your dog’s brain cells, liver, and intestines at grave risk. You could even be endangering your dog’s life. Every day, people just like you, who love their dogs and take them along on errands, put them in danger because they don’t yet know this: each breath of air that a dog exhales measures 102 degrees Fahrenheit, at 100% humidity. Therefore, as the dog waits in the car for their person to finish that errand, the car becomes filled with hot, moist air. The dog (who can’t sweat) has no way to cool off, and can suffer brain damage within minutes. When the air outside the car is warm, a greenhouse effect is created and the temperature inside the car rises dramatically within minutes. Yes, even if the car is parked in the shade, even with the windows cracked, and even if you leave the dog water to drink.
You car can reach 116 degrees within an hour—even with the windows down—when it is only 72 degrees outside. (Stanford University tested it out). In just ten minutes, your car can reach 102 degrees if it is 85 degrees outside. When your dog’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, nerve, liver, heart and brain damage begin to occur. If you have a brachiocephalic breed (a “short-nosed” dog like a pug, bulldog or Pekingese), an Arctic breed or a giant breed, you have even less wiggle room for safety. Talk with your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s health and safety related to the heat.
You may think this does not apply to you because you’re just running into the bank to make a quick deposit, or you’re only dashing into the store to pick up a couple of items. But people just like you have lost their dogs to brain damage and heart damage after they said, “I’ll only be gone for a minute,” and then found their dog suffering from hyperthermia when they returned. Perhaps the line was longer than they’d hoped, they ran into a friend and stopped just long enough to say hello, or they spotted a great sale that kept them away from the car longer than that one minute. Canine heat stroke is a summer tragedy you can avoid.
To give you an idea of how serious a threat the heat is to your dog, it is illegal in many counties to leave your dog in your car (regardless if the windows are cracked or the car is parked in the shade) if the outside temperature is 70 degrees or warmer. Leaving your dog in your car is such a threat to your dog’s life that Animal Control Officers will break into your vehicle to save your dog.
If you see a dog in a parked car and it’s over 70 degrees, call 911 (yes, the police really do want you to call because a life and death emergency could be unfolding). They may arrive themselves, or they may dispatch Animal Control officers.
I don’t recommend trying to strike up a conversation with the dog’s owner, by the way. They may feel embarrassed and none too willing to heed the advice of someone they may consider a butt-in-ski. Instead, after you call 911, leave a fact-filled flyer on their windshield. You can print them out yourself thanks to My Dog is Cool.
Last week I backed my car out of a space and was leaving the parking lot when I heard barking. “Uh-oh,” I thought. According to my car’s thermometer, it was 82 degrees outside. Sure enough, there was a little, black dog locked in a sedan. The windows were cracked, there was a water dish inside, and he was panting like mad. His owner was nowhere in sight. I called Animal Control, and just then someone came out of the building and approached the car. Relieved, I said, “Excuse me, is this your car?” and when she replied that it was, I told her I was glad to see her, because her dog was in distress and I was just calling Animal Control. She did not check on her dog, but rather said to me, “Have a heart, I was only in there for 30 minutes.”
Please, when it’s hotter than 70 degrees outside, have a heart. Leave you dog at home.