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Cars + Summer + Pets = DISASTER

June 17, 2009 - Amy Jo Hanna
The temperature inside your car can quickly become too hot for anyone, especially your dog or cat.

Even with the window open, it can get too hot.  Let me repeat that. Even with the window o-p-e-n, it can get too hot.

A few days ago, my friend was shopping at a local plaza.  When she came out of the store she noticed a large, retriever–husky mix in the back seat of a nearby car. The window was only cracked open about an inch. (Imagine the thick coat that dog had)

A vet tech by trade, and someone who has pretty much always worked with animals, my friend immediately noticed how dangerously lethargic the dog was acting.  She anxiously waited 25 minutes hoping the owner would return as a small crowd of people gathered with her. As they watched the dog slip closer into unconsciousness, my friend made a decision and instinctively broke the car window and with the help of witnesses pulled the dog out and began to administer CPR then wet the dog’s limp body in an attempt to cool its body temperature.

The police did come soon followed by the owner of the car and dog. She was completely ignorant that she had put her dog in such a dire situation and was within minutes of being responsible for its death.  She had absolutely no knowledge of how quickly the interior of a car could heat up or how quickly a dog’s (or person’s) body temperature can rise – unable to no longer cool itself – and suffer heat exhaustion, stroke or worse, death.

Sadly, the dog, now in protective medical care, is still unable to walk straight or  focus coherently. This is probably a sure sign that the dog did suffer brain damage. Only time will tell.  As my friend left the scene, the one concern the lady still didn't get an answer to was ‘who’ was going to pay for her broken window.

The officer did lecture her on the dangers of leaving children/pets in vehicles and how quickly temperatures can turn deadly. (It was slightly satisfying that he told her she might want to worry more about whether her dog would recover than who was going to pay for the window – although the law is unfortunately not on the side of animals. That outcome is yet to be decided.)

I personally think the lady should have been beaten to a pulp and placed in the back seat with the windows up for the rest of the afternoon, only then to have been arrested.

My friend, who had a smidge more compassion than me, expressed that the lady -  well dressed and with a nice vehicle - obviously loved her dog or she wouldn’t have toted it around. Nor, did she have one iota of knowledge about the dangers of keeping a pet in a vehicle.

We pet owners, love to travel with our fur-babies. However, as soon as temperatures begin to rise, as much as we hate to leave them behind, home is the best place for them.

My Jesse, and Keetie before her, loved to ride in the car. They went everywhere with me. However, I knew that once warm weather arrived my girls were better off in the climate controlled house.

Let’s review:

A dog's normal body temperature is 101.0 to 102.5 degrees F. Dogs (and cats) cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws. On summer days the air and upholstery in your vehicle can make it impossible for pets to cool themselves.

A little heat outside the car can quickly make it unbearable inside the car. On an 85 degree F day, for example, even keeping the windows slightly open won't stop the inside temperature from climbing to 102 degrees in 10 minutes -- to 120 degrees in 20 minutes.

A dog whose body temperature rises to 107-108 degrees F will within a very short time suffer irreparable brain damage -- or even death.

(This does NOT exclude dogs tethered outside in the sun without shade or fresh water EITHER)

I found several websites that provide free fliers that you can download, print and share with others (place on windshields) if you see a dog in a car on a warm day.  The fliers all contain similar information about the dangers of leaving pets in vehicles and many include children as well, since most people who are clueless about the dangers of leaving pets in a vehicle are also the ones who wouldn’t think twice about leaving a child in the car “for a minute while they just run into the store”.  WITHIN TEN MINUTES A CHILD OR ANIMAL’S BODY TEMP WILL BEGIN TO SKY ROCKET. 

I have decided to print out and start carrying these informative fliers in my glove compartment. I am also sharing them with friends and am posting one in particular that I like the best RIGHT HERE for you to download and print out.

I am also including several websites with similar information and fliers you can print out or order on your own. If you cannot conveniently download or print out your own copies, I would be more than happy to do so for you. Just email me and I’ll get you copies within the week.

The Animal Protection Institute (API's) Hot Car Flyer has saved countless animals' lives over the years. With its tips on prevention and treatment, the Hot Car Flyer has proven to be a painless reminder that alerts someone of the dangers of leaving animals in the car while he or she is shopping.
1.    You can print out your own
2.    Buy copies for a nominal fee from the organization or
3.    Have me send copies to you

Whenever you see a parked car with animals inside, place the Hot Car Flyer under the windshield wiper. (If you see a child in the car, immediately notify the closest store manager.)

Of course I don’t condone breaking a windshield (this is for the benefit of my mother or employer if they would see this); HOWEVER, I will be the first one to rescue an animal or child in distress whatever means necessary; AND, I will also be the first one to help raise bail money if you had to do the same.

My friend has been re-living and re-playing the episode every night before falling asleep and continues to wait word if her rescue is going to pull through. 

No laws stand on the books in any state to provide adequate protection for animals and I’m not sure I’ll live to ever see this come to fruition – so it remains up to each of us to take the most conscionable measures necessary to protect those who cannot protect themselves.


Exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting), rapid or erratic pulse; salivation; anxious or staring expression; weakness and muscle tremors; lack of coordination; tongue and lips red (which may eventually turn bluish in colour); convulsions or vomiting; collapse, coma and death.


If your pet shows symptoms of heatstroke follow these instructions:

* Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place.
* Wet with cool water.
* Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This process will cool the blood, which
  reduces the animal's core temperature.
* Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow which will inhibit cooling.
* Take the animal to a veterinarian ASAP. Vets may have to apply supportive         
   measures such as intravenous fluids to re-hydrate and oxygen to prevent brain
* (And, be sure I don’t find out)



Article Comments



Jun-18-2009 10:27 PM

In the summer it breaks my heart every time my dog's ears perk up when he hears the keys jingle. The look of disapointment he gives me when I tell him I love him and mommy will be back soon is hard to walk away from. I know he doesn't understand why he can't go for his daily "bye byes" in the "car car" until October. It's all worth it when I come home from my short travels and he's there wagging his tail and inspecting every shopping/grocery bag that enters his domicile. Although I suspect he's much happier lounging on the couch watching Shep Smith on Fox News with the A/C on!

Jun-17-2009 4:45 PM

Because I have to, I love Canada.

However, that isn't the issue here. That's for another blog.

This is a fantastic blog to get more people active and protect our four-footed friends.

Way to go Amy!!


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