Road Rules: A parked car is no place for dogs

Guest Blog

by Erin Andrews

Erin Andrews is a pet lover and pet advocate. She served in the U.S. Army as a veterinary technician working at the Fort Knox Veterinary Treatment Facility. As a tech at Fort Knox, she managed the Bite Report Program and the MWR Horse Stables.

Well Memorial Day’s fun is over, but if you’re like me, this is just the beginning to more summer fun. Summer is for having a good time with family and friends, including our four legged kids. With summer comes the higher temperatures that vary around the country.

Most of our pets live indoors, where we keep the thermostat on; others may live outdoors but still seek cooler places to lie down during peak parts of the day. Rarely do we find someone outdoors in hot weather without a reason, because hot weather can kill us. Unless you properly care for your pets, they too can die from hot weather.

For those of us who enjoy traveling with our four legged companions, car safety is a must. No, I’m not talking about buckling your pet in; however, pet safety restraints are available from your local pet store and are helpful in case of an accident. I’m speaking strictly on the subject of pets being left in cars during any type of warm or hot weather.

“Did you know a closed car, even with the windows cracked, acts like a greenhouse?”

The temperature in any vehicle may be fine while the air conditioning is running, but once the air conditioning stops the car heats up very quickly. Did you know a closed car, even with the windows cracked, acts like a greenhouse? For example: At 9:00 a.m., it could be 82° F outside but inside a closed vehicle, the temperature could be around 109° F. Within 30 minutes, the outside temperature could rise to 87° F while the temperature inside a car goes to 115° F. Crazy, right!!

Pets experience heat stroke and heat exhaustion just as we do. Recognize the signs: heavy panting, difficulty breathing, bright red tongue, vomiting, and diarrhea. A dog’s normal temperature ranges from 100.5° F-102.5° F; at 108° F, your pet’s brain fries just like ours. If you notice any of these symptoms immediately take an initial rectal temperature and begin cooling your pet by running cool water over them, and only giving them very small amounts of water to drink every 10 minutes or so. Stop cooling procedures when your pet’s temperature is around 104° F-103.5° F degrees. You don’t want to bring their temperature down too fast though, because you can cause hypothermia, the exact opposite of what you were dealing with before. If you’re not comfortable cooling your pet or all else fails, seek veterinary help immediately!!!

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke/Exhaustion

  • Heavy panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bright red tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal temperature higher than 102.5°

Leaving your pet in the car is just one of many ways of harming your companion animal this summer. Stay alert and use common sense when it comes to your pets. And please, this summer, if you plan on taking your pet for a drive, use a drive thru when possible, visit pet friendly stores, and if at all possible leave your pet at home until you’re completely ready to go.


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