hot car safety pictureIt is a sunny summer day, the perfect day to get out of the house and enjoy the weather.  Many well-meaning owners take their pets along for a ride while running errands, only to end up at their veterinarian with a critically ill pet. It is important to understand hot car safety.  Veterinarians hear it every year, “I was just running in to the store for a few minutes.” or “I left the window cracked and parked in the shade”, but in the matter of minutes the temperature inside of a vehicle can rise over 20 degrees.

A study conducted at Stanford University found that on a cool day of 72°, the inside temperature of a car can reach 116 degrees in just 60 minutes.  That is a 44 degree increase.  Research has found that cracking the windows and parking under shade has little or no effect on helping to slow the rise in temperature inside a car.  Also leaving the air conditioner on does not guarantee the safety of your pet.  The air conditioning could break or dangerous fumes can build up inside.  It is important to remember that it is not only the heat in the car that is dangerous to your pet but also the humidity.  Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which reduces the heat of their body. If the humidity is too high, pets are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will rise very quickly to dangerous levels. Brachycephalic, short nosed, dogs are particularly susceptible to heat and humidity due to their small, flattened noses. They have a more difficult time moving air and cooling themselves.  Animals that are very young, overweight, or have heart or respiratory disease are also at an increased risk of heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a life threatening condition that is characterized by heavy, load breathing, a staggering gait, glazed look in the eyes, rapid heartbeat, a bright red tongue and gums, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, possible seizures and unconsciousness.  A pet experiencing these symptoms can succumb to heat stroke within 15 minutes.  If you suspect an animal is experiencing heat stroke bring the animal to a cool place, place cool compresses on its belly and immediately seek veterinary care for the pet.

It is important to remember that taking your pet for a ride when running errands may seem like a fun activity for your pet and you to enjoy together.  However, with high temperatures and humidity, most pets prefer to spend time in the comfort and safety of home.  Avoid the health risks of taking your pet along and instead plan another activity you two can enjoy together when you return home. Maybe pick up a new toy or plan a special walk or play time in the yard in the coolers hours. By leaving your pet at home, you will keep your pet safe to enjoy many special days together.