Too dog-gone hot

Even when parked in the shade with windows unrolled, the temperatures inside a parked vehicle can prove deadly for your dog. The best bet is to leave your pet home, with plenty of shade and ample water.
Even when parked in the shade with windows unrolled, the temperatures inside a parked vehicle can prove deadly for your dog. The best bet is to leave your pet home, with plenty of shade and ample water. Sierra Star

What happened? How did it jump from the comfortable low 70s to the sweltering high 90s, seemingly overnight? Because we’ve been spoiled with unusually cooler temperatures this year, Mountain Area residents have routinely traveled with their dogs riding shotgun as they run those last-minute errands or that in-and-out, one item shopping.

Beware. The heat turning up at an accelerated rate can prove dangerous for your beloved companion patiently awaiting your return.

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.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

PETA equates leaving dogs in cars on hot days to being “baked alive,” calling the vehicles a “death trap.” 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.

Assembly Bill 797

Following the deaths of many dogs left in closed vehicles on hot days, in Sept. 2016, California legislators signed AB 797 into effect.

Under this bill, you must first call law enforcement to report a situation in which an animal is in apparent peril. If in imminent danger, if the car is locked, and law enforcement is not arriving quickly enough to save the animal’s life, the bill provides immunity from civil and criminal liability to a Good Samaritan causing vehicle damage to rescue the animal.

However, 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 law enforcement has been called.

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

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

Summer is typically the time of year for community events and outdoor play. Before taking your pet along with you, remember, while you’re wearing protective baseball caps or oversized straw hats and soaking up cold beverages in an effort to cool down, your leashed dog is 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 dog 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, seem to fly by and are far too few to begin with.