Fido’s Stay-Cation: Your Dog’s Answer to Heat Stroke Prevention
As temperatures rise this summer, billions are searching for easy and fun ways to beat the heat. Whether your plan is to hit the beach, travel abroad or lounge poolside with friends and family, you’ll want to make sure your four-legged friends can stay cool, hydrated and comfortable as well. While it’s great to take Fido along for a fun drive to the dog park or into town as we run errands, it’s important to understand how dangerous it can be to leave your dog unattended in a car for even a short period of time.
Dogs don’t sweat like we do, so it’s harder for them to cool off while in a car parked in the hot sun. They pant excessively when they are exposed to hot climates and being in an enclosed space (even with the windows rolled down) can launch them into a nasty heat stroke in a matter of minutes.1
Temperatures Rise Fast
According to PETA, even if it’s a cool 78 degrees outside, it can climb up to 120 degrees inside your car. On a typical summer day in Arizona, the interior of your car can become a hotbox and reach 160 degrees.2The Humane Society and many other experts agree that rolling down your car windows a crack does not improve these heated conditions at all.3 That kind of heat can be life threatening for your pup.
Not all breeds are the same
The ASPCA warns that breeds especially threatened by heat are those with a “pushed in face” or a “flat face” like boxers, pugs, Pekingese or bulldogs because these breed have a smaller air passage and therefore will struggle with breathing while trapped in the heat. Excessive panting can raise a dog’s heart rate to an alarming level.4
Signs of Heat Stroke
Symptoms a dog may exhibit if it is experiencing heat stroke: excessive panting and drooling, vomiting or having diarrhea, an increased heart rate, glazed eyes, bright or dark red tongue or gums, is staggering, having a seizure or has lost consciousness.1 If you see a dog experiencing these symptoms, try to rehydrate the dog gradually and provide small doses of fresh water for him to drink. Make sure he doesn’t drink too much too fast. Doing so could give him an upset stomach.
How to Treat
If you suspect that your dog has heat stroke try laying him on cold tile with cool towels on the back of his neck, groin area, armpits and moisten the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Be sure to avoid using cold or ice water as this will constrict the dog’s blood vessels in the skin. If blood vessels are constricted, this will prevent blood flow to the dog’s heart.5
A dog’s normal temperature is 100° to 103°F, so it’s best to avoid letting his temperature fall below that range.To regulate your dog’s temperature, you could use a rectal thermometer. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are also special thermometers that measure infrared heat waves that are emitted from a dog’s eardrum. Place the thermometer deep into the ear canal. Once his temperature comes down to 103 degrees, take him to the veterinarian’s office.6 Offer your dog water to drink but don’t force him to drink if he’s not interested. Don’t leave your dog unattended or let him “sleep it off.” Their condition can worsen the next day if they don’t get proper medical attention right away.5
Know the laws
Leaving your dog in a parked car is cited as an offense in 14 states in the U.S.7Charges for this violation range from a $70.00 fine in Maryland to a Class 1 misdemeanor – a fine of $2,500.00 and six months in jail – if you commit the offense in Arizona.8
Now that you know how dangerous it can be to lock an animal inside a hot car, preventing others from making this error will help protect animals from a possible tragic death. If you see a dog locked in a parked car – Act immediately and don’t assume that someone else will take action; the situation could be a matter of life or death for the animal locked inside. Make sure that you document the model, make, color and license plate and location of the vehicle. Take note of the time you discovered the animal in the locked car and the condition of the animal. If the car is in a parking lot, notify the clerks at nearby businesses to see if they can find the pet owner.9 If you can’t locate the pet owner, contact the police, by dialing 311, or animal control. Documenting vehicle information and time of incident can be useful when filing a report with police, so they can locate the pet owner. Don’t do anything drastic like breaking a car window and there’s no reason to confront the owner, if one does turn up. Placing blame or accusing the owner of negligence won’t change the situation. However, try to stay on the scene until the issue has been resolved and you’re sure the dog is in recovery.10
One great way to help your furry friend is to provide cool fresh drinking water, make sure she has access to shade if she’s outside, and leave her at home where she can enjoy an air conditioned environment. Sure you might miss your dog and she probably misses you too, but if you leave your canine companion at home when you drive away, she will be happily wagging her tail, greeting you at your door when you return.11
1“Overheating Can Cause Your Dog’s Agonizing Death Within Minutes – Yet It’s Entirely Avoidable,”” Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker. June 24, 2013http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/06/24/overheating.aspx
2“Dogs in Hot Cars”, PETA.org,
3 “What to Do if You See a Pet in a Hot Car,” HumaneSociety.org, May 22, 2014
4“Heat Wave Alert: Prevent Heat Stroke in Pets,” ASPCA.org, July 19, 2011 http://www.aspca.org/blog/heat-wave-alert-prevent-heat-stroke-pets
5“Heatstroke in Dogs: Symptoms and First Aid,” Priority Pet Hospital, May 31, 2013
6“How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature,” Pedigree.com
7“Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles,” Animallaw.info, 2013
8“Misdemeanors,” Udall/Shumway Counselors at Law
9“What to do if you see a dog left in a car,” TailsInc.com, July 10, 2013
10“Never Leave Your Pet in a Parked Car,” Petfinder
11“How Weather Tips,” ASPCA.org
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