Wellness Wednesday ~ Dogs Left In Cars – Risk of Heat Stroke on Warm Days

 By Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM Veterinary Medicine Expert

“Just a few minutes” could be an eternity in a 120F degree car.  Even on cooler days, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures

 

Even when parked in the shade on a warm day, animals (or kids or the elderly) can succumb to heatstroke or death if left in the car unattended. Sadly, it happens every year.

Tips on how you can help

  • If you know who the owner is, a friendly “hey, your pet is hot” or some other means of striking up conversation will alert the owner to the dangers of leaving their pet in the car. Keeping some “Don’t Leave Me in Here — It’s Hot!” flyers in your car are also a great way of spreading the word.
  • Usually though, the car is in a parking lot and the dog is alone. In this case, speak with a store manager. I have found store managers to be very helpful in locating the owner or calling animal control. They do not want a tragedy happening in their parking lot.
  • Call your local animal control or the police for assistance. My friend is an animal control officer. We were discussing the “pet left in a car” problem. I felt that surely, by now, the message would be out about the dangers of leaving pets (or children) in cars on warm days. No, she assured me that they get calls every year responding to distressed animals in left in cars. Some animals still die from heatstroke, even when animal control is called. Minutes count.
  • Keep your local animal control phone number in your cell phone. Many areas provide parking lot assistance or patrols for animals in cars.

But it’s summer! I want to take my dog with me.

Pets are part of the family. We frequently take our dogs with us on outings. And, no matter how prepared, it seems we always have to run a quick errand or two on the way to wherever we are going. We solve this problem by parking in the shade, leashing or kenneling the dogs, and family members staying with the car and the dogs, keeping doors and windows open.

If you are alone, the above scenario isn’t possible and more creativity is needed. Here are some ideas.

  • Use the drive-up if possible. This works for some restaurants, banks, and pharmacies.
  • Shop in pet-welcome stores. Pet stores typically allow pets, and they do carry “human” items like candy and snacks if you are in a hurry.
  • Utilize a travel kennel outside the car, in the shade, if possible. NOTE: Please use this tip judiciously and with caution; not for use in parking lots, not in an area where your pet could be pestered by bystanders, etc., etc. In general, travel kennels are a great way to keep your pet safe while in fresh air, with cool water, and so on.

I feel that bystanders are the “eyes and ears” to aid in preventing animal (and child) abuse and neglect. Getting involved does make a difference, especially for those who may not have a voice. If you are uncomfortable reporting a problem, please find assistance through a store manager, animal control, friend or family member to assist those in need.