No bones about it ... it’s too hot for pets

With temperatures quickly on the rise, people have been shaking off the malaise of those dreary winter months to enjoy warmer weather with family and furry friends.

Along with this increased outdoor activity, many Mountain Area residents, accustomed to traveling with their pets riding shotgun, will leave their dogs in vehicles while running “quick” errands, or doing that “will just-take-a-minute, one-item” shopping.

Some pets are left in cars sitting in the blazing sun, with windows slightly rolled down. Others are tied inside the beds of pickups, with no way to escape the sweltering heat.

Did you know that on a 78-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle parked in the shade can exceed 120 degrees in a matter of minutes? Or on a 90-degree day, a vehicle parked in the sun can hit a boiling 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes?

Even when the outside air temperature is in the 60s, temperatures inside a car can reach the danger zone. Partially rolling down a window and parking in the shade doesn’t guarantee pet protection. Unlike humans, dogs can only sweat through their footpads and cool themselves by panting, which makes it extremely difficult for them to beat the heat.

And in a short 15 minutes, your dog can suffer brain damage or die from heat stroke.

“Particularly during the summer months, we see things that endanger dogs,” EMCSPCA President Sharon Fitzgerald said. “Temperatures rise quickly in a vehicle even when the windows are left slightly open. If you don’t have someone to stay with your dog in your vehicle, leave your dog at home, where there is shade and fresh water.”

As for dogs riding in the back of pickup trucks, Fitzgerald warns of the risk of serious paw burns.

“If you can’t comfortably place your hand on the bed of your pickup (which has been sitting in the sun), the chances are your dog will suffer burns,” she added.

Exercising your dog during the heat can also seriously burn paws. The pavement on a hot day can heat up to between 130 and 180 degrees. If you have to exercise with your pet, do so in the early morning or late evening. Carry water and take frequent breaks. And never exercise dogs in warm weather by jogging or cycling while they try to keep up the pace. Dogs are known to run to the point of collapse just to please you. At that point, it may be too late to save them.

Fitzgerald also reminds that the law states dogs must be tethered with a centering device to prevent their jumping or falling over the side of the truck. It is recommended that dogs ride either in the cab (in a crate or wearing a seat belt harness designed specifically for dogs), or in a secured crate in the truck bed.

The American Red Cross is adamant in its stance ... no driving with your pet in the bed of a truck ... period. Not only because of burned paws, but flying debris, which can cause serious injury, or your dog may unintentionally be thrown into traffic if you suddenly hit the brakes, swerve, or are involved in an accident.

“Freeway Frieda” was recently in the news. The German Shepherd apparently fell out of the back of a pickup truck in early April along Highway 99 near Galt. Miraculously she survived five weeks in the highway median, until rescued by Galt police officers, who said the dog’s owner may have been unaware that “Frieda” fell out of the moving vehicle.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

PETA equates leaving dogs in cars on hot days to being “baked alive.” Cracking a window doesn’t help, nor will parking in the shade or leaving water in the car ... none of this will prevent your dog from heat stroke or possible death.

Symptoms of heat stroke include restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy, and lack of appetite or coordination. Should you observe these symptoms, provide your dog with water, apply a cold towel to the head and chest, and hurry to your veterinarian. This is an emergency situation, and any delay can prove fatal.

If you notice a dog in a hot car, alert the management of the store where the car is parked to have the owner paged. If there is no prompt response, call the sheriff’s department, which can typically respond more quickly than animal control, and can enter the car to rescue the dog.

If you have done all you can - exhausting all other options - but believe response time is too slow and the dog’s life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who agree with your assessment, and take the necessary steps to remove the suffering animal from the car.

Then take the dog into an air-conditioned building (if possible) and wait for authorities to arrive. Don’t leave the dog unattended, and don’t leave the scene until help arrives and you know the dog is safe.

New legislation

Assembly Bill 797 is now before California lawmakers. If passed, it would allow people to break dogs out of hot cars without fear of being sued.

“This does not mean you can spot a dog in a car and immediately break out the window,” EMCSPCA’s Fitzgerald continued. “I’ve heard and seen Facebook comments about this occurring far too often, so remember to use common sense before taking such a drastic action.”

Before getting to this point, you must make sure the vehicle is locked, that there is no other “reasonable” entry, that nearby businesses have been notified, announcements by store personnel have been made, and that law enforcement has been called.

“Most of the time, law enforcement arrives before breaking a window becomes the only option,” Fitzgerald said.

The owner of a pet left in a hot car can face criminal penalties for allowing their animal to suffer or, should assistance arrive too late, to die. The penalty is contingent on several factors, including the temperature inside the car and the dog’s breed (short-snouted dogs have a harder time coping with heat).

Pet Care 101

Bringing your beloved dog to a community event is commonplace, but remember, while you’re wearing protective baseball caps and soaking up cold beverages in an effort to stay cool, your leashed dog is sitting quietly by your side, usually with no water.

Loving your dog and being a responsible pet owner means taking the steps necessary to ensure your pet’s safety and continued good health.

If you’re feeling the heat, chances are your pet is even more uncomfortable (although they may never show it). So on those very warm and steaming hot days, it may be smarter and safer to leave your faithful companion at home, with ample water and plenty of shade.

It just may extend your happy years together, which as any true pet lover knows, are far too few to begin with.