Why You Shouldn't Leave Your Dog In The Car

Friday, July 06, 2012

Several animals enjoy car trips.  Obviously, Archie is not one of those animals.

But this dog is.
But I implore you, PLEASE do not leave your dog alone in the car when it's hot out.  Ever.  If this means you need to leave your dog at home in order to visit an establishment where dogs are not allowed, so be it.  If you've ever done this, please don't think that I think you don't love your pet, or that you're a bad pet parent; even I once left Archie alone in the car for 2 minutes when he was a puppy to run in and pick up my Chipotle order one night.  I just think a lot of people aren't really educated on the matter; I certainly had no idea how hot a car can get.

Cracking the windows?  It's not enough.

Have you been in an area where the heat has been miserable lately?  I'm betting you have.  We've been hitting 100+ temps here in Indiana (with oodles of humidity), so if it's that way here, it probably is where you are too.  100 degree weather blows, right?

Well let's take a look at how hot your car gets, shall we?

If it's 75 outside, it will reach 100 degrees inside the car in ten minutes.  That's not very long.  And in 30 minutes?  It can get up to 120.

It only takes 5 minutes for a car to reach 90 degrees when it's 85 outside, and less than 10 to reach 100.  It'll hit 120 in thirty minutes.

And if it's 100 degrees, like it is here now?  In 15 minutes, I repeat, 15 MINUTES, it will be 140 degrees inside your car.

Please don't subject your pet to that.

It leaves your pet at a major risk for heat stroke, which can kill an animal in minutes.  What are some signs to look out for?
  • rapid, intense panting
  • bright red tongue, gums and/or eyes
  • weakness/dizziness/sluggishness
  • shock
  • coma
If your pet is showing signs of heat stroke, immediately move to a shady area, and try to cool him/her down by putting him/her in cool water (but not cold -- it could make the problem worse by constricting your pet's blood vessels).  Try putting ice on your pet's head and neck, cool them down with a fan if you have one, and, of course, call your vet ASAP.

In addition to heat stroke, leaving your pet in the car can also lead to sunburn and skin cancer, so it's always a good idea to put sunscreen on your pet, especially on the nose and ears, any time you're going to be out in the sun.

In some states, it's illegal to leave a pet alone in a parked car (in some states, it depends on weather conditions, and even in states where it's not, leaving a pet alone in a hot car can sometimes constitute animal cruelty.  So if you live in Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, or West Virginia, you should definitely rethink leaving your pet alone in the car.  In some states, it can even lead to jail time.

So what should you do if you see a pet left alone in a hot car?  Here's what the ASPCA recommends:

  • Try to locate the pet's owner.  If they're nowhere in sight, call the business you think they're probably in (like the grocery store if you're in the grocery store parking lot, the mall if you're in the mall parking lot, etc.) and ask them to make an announcement over the loudspeaker.
  • Educate the owner, if you're able to find them, and make sure the pet gets out of the car ASAP.  A lot of people don't understand how dangerous it can be to leave your pet alone in the car.  
  • Call 911.  Even in the states where there aren't laws in place, police are usually more than willing to help you out.
  • Feel good about the fact that you helped save a life :)
Here's a handy infographic created by Dr. Marie Haynes with more details about exactly what happens to an overheated dog.

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