We get it! It’s a perfect day for a picnic. Pack up the dog, head out in the car and just pit stop at the grocery store on the way, right?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “only” 5 minutes when it comes to a pet in a hot car.
Things happen. Maybe there was a line-up, maybe you realized you needed ‘just one more thing’, maybe you ran in to an old friend. Pretty soon “only” 5 minutes becomes 10, 15 or 30 minutes. In the air conditioned store, you may not even realize how fast time has passed, but for a dog in a hot car, even 5 minutes can feel like an eternity.
Don’t let a 5 minute errand cost you your best friend.
Heat Stroke can begin after only a few moments in a hot car. Unlike humans, dogs, cats and other animals are not able to sweat to cool off. Unfortunately for our furry family members, panting is not an effective way to remove heat from the body, so this method of cooling is quickly overpowered by the rising heat in a hot car. Some breeds or species, like brachycephalic breeds (breeds of cats and dogs with very short or squashed snouts) are at greater risk for heat stroke due to breathing issues, but a hot car can be fatal to any pet.
Heat stroke can happen in 10 minutes or less on a hot day. At Calgary Humane Society, we ran a test in May using three cars – one with the windows closed, one with the windows cracked and one with the windows wide open – to see if we could prevent the car from getting dangerously hot. Even with the windows wide open on a day with a light breeze, the temperature soared more than 10 degrees in just 10 minutes. Opening the windows or leaving water in the car is not enough to prevent heat stroke. Leaving the car running with your air conditioning on may seem like a workable solution, but there have been many cases where the air conditioner has failed without the pet owner realizing it.
Symptoms of heat stroke begin within minutes of being left in the car and progress quickly. The pet will begin to pant heavily and have difficulty breathing with a bright red tongue. As the pet is unable to cool off by panting they may drool or vomit and their body temperature increases. High core body temperatures quickly lead to stumbling, collapse and seizures. In the early stages of heat stroke immediate treatment can often cool the pet down, preventing further damage, but recovery becomes much less likely as more symptoms, particularly neurological symptoms, develop.
Heat stroke is preventable! If you plan to stop, leave your pet at home or bring someone else who can stay with your pet in the shade while you shop. If you see a pet trapped in a hot car this summer, report it! Call Calgary Humane Society at 403-205-4455 to request an investigation by our Protection and Investigations officers or the Calgary Police Service to request assistance.
This summer, be cool and NEVER leave your pet in a hot car.
Please visit our Facebook page for the full results of our Dog in Hot Car Experiment.