TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — With the summer months upon us, pet travel is at it’s height and it’s time for a reminder about the dangers of leaving your pet in a parked car. Whether you’re parking in the shade, just running into the store, or leaving the windows cracked, it is not OK to leave your pet in a parked car.
The temperature inside a car can skyrocket after just a few minutes. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked does very little to alleviate this pressure cooker.
On a warm, sunny day, turn off your, crack the windows and sit there. It will be a few short minutes before it becomes unbearable.
Imagine how your helpless pet will feel. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At 110 degrees, pets are in danger of heatstroke.
On hot and humid days, the temperature in a car parked in direct sunlight can rise more than 30 degrees per minute and quickly become lethal.
Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study to measure the temperature rise inside a parked car on sunny days with highs ranging from 72 to 96 degrees F. Results showed a car’s interior can heat up an average of 40 degrees F within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature.
Ambient temperature doesn’t matter — it’s whether it’s sunny out — with 80 percent of temperature rise occurring within the first half-hour.
Even on a relatively cool day, the temperature inside a parked car can quickly spike to life-threatening levels if the sun is shining.
Researchers also noted much like the sun warms a greenhouse in winter; it also warms a parked car on cool days. In both cases, the sun heats up a mass of air trapped under glass. Precautions such as cracking a window or running the air conditioner prior to parking the car were found to be inadequate.
“If more people knew the danger of leaving their pets in their parked car, they wouldn’t do it,” said Kim Salerno, TripsWithPets.com president. “Pets are very susceptible to overheating as they are much less efficient at cooling themselves than people are.”
The solution is simple — leave your pets at home if your destination does not allow pets.
Dogs are designed to conserve heat. Their sweat glands, which exist on their nose and the pads of their feet, are inadequate for cooling during hot days. Panting and drinking water helps cool them, but if they only have hot air to breathe, dogs can suffer brain and organ damage after just 15 minutes. Short-nosed breeds, young pets, seniors or pets with weight, respiratory, cardiovascular or other health problems are especially susceptible to heat-related stress.
Signs of heat stress include: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting or a deep red or purple tongue. If a pet becomes overheated, immediately lowering their body temperature is a must.
Move the pet into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water all over their body to gradually lower their temperature.
Apply ice packs or cool towels to the pet’s head, neck and chest only.
Allow the pet to drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
Then take the pet to the nearest vet.
Animal services officers or other law enforcement officers are authorized to remove any animal left in an unattended vehicle that is exhibiting signs of heat stress by using the amount of force necessary to remove the animal, and shall not be liable for any damages reasonably related to the removal. The pet owner may be charged with animal cruelty.
Creating greater awareness is the key to preventing pets from this unnecessary suffering or death. Help spread the word. A good start is to let friends know about the dangers of leaving pets in a parked car. Remind them to keep their pets at home on warm sunny days if they’ll be going anywhere pets are not allowed. The Humane Society of the United States has posters available for a nominal fee to remind shoppers “Leaving Your Pet in a Parked Car Can Be a Deadly Mistake.”
If you see a pet in a parked car during a warm sunny day, go to the nearest store and have the owner paged. Enlist the help of a police officer, security guard or call the police department or animal control office.
TripsWithPets.com is pet travel resource, named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports. Kim Salerno founded the pet travel site in 2003, to ensure that pets are welcome, happy, and safe in their travels.