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Cars & Pet Safety: How To Keep Dogs Safe In The Heat


Dogs are beloved pets that frequently travel with their owners on outings and everyday errands. But when the temperatures climb during the summer and early autumn months, exiting the car and leaving Fido behind can quickly become a deadly situation for the dog.

How bad could it get? Here are some examples of outside/inside closed automobile temperatures from Red Rover, citing a study by the Animal Protection Institute.

Outside, the temperature may be 82 degrees Fahrenheit at 9:00 a.m., but inside the car the reading could be 109 degrees. At noon, the outside temperature in summer could be 101 degrees. Inside the vehicle, it could soar to 119 degrees. At 2:30 p.m., when it’s 104 degrees outside, the car’s interior – where the dog is suffering – could reach 120 degrees.

Only 14 states have laws that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle: Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia. Numerous local ordinances also prohibit leaving animals in parked vehicles.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

Warning signs that a dog may be suffering from heatstroke include: heavy panting, profuse salivation, rapid pulse, very red gums/tongue, lethargy, difficulty breathing, disorientation, stumbling or poor coordination, diarrhea or vomiting, collapse or loss of consciousness, seizure and respiratory arrest.

Dogs with short noses, such as Pugs, are more prone to heat illness, as are thick-coated dogs such as Pomeranians and Huskies. Other dogs more susceptible to heatstroke include the very old and very young, dogs with certain illnesses and those on some medications. 

Tips for keeping dogs safe in cars in the heat

Common sense, along with state or local laws, dictates that dogs, other pets, and children never be left alone in parked cars – especially in the heat. If you opt to bring your dog with you in the car, take him with you when you exit the vehicle, even if it’s only for a few minutes. During hot days, car temperatures can soar in a matter of minutes, which could prove fatal for your pet.

If you won’t be able to bring the dog with you while you run errands, it’s better to leave him at home. Cracking a window does nothing to eliminate the risk. It’s just not safe for your dog alone in a parked vehicle.

Other ways to keep Fido safe and cool in the heat during car travel include:

  • Place a weighted bowl with water in the car. It needs to be weighted so that the dog cannot knock it over.
  • Carry extra water with you and give it to the doge frequently in small amounts.
  • Groom the dog regularly to get rid of excessive hair. Long-haired dogs should get a haircut at the beginning of summer and later, as necessary.
  • Dogs can get sunburned on noses and their ears. Ask the vet about a pet-safe sunscreen to protect those delicate areas.

If you see a dog in a parked car in obvious signs of distress, call the police immediately, say the experts, as the dog needs immediate medical attention.

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