This is a short guide about dogs being left in hot cars, and outlines:
Important information and stats
Potential ways to address the issue
Let’s take a look!
(NOTE – this is a general information guide only. It does not contain any professional advice, and is not a substitute for professional advice. Speak to a qualified veterinarian or animal health professional about the health of animals and pets)
How Many Dogs Die Per Year In Hot Cars?
This isn’t a commonly tracked stat, but:
Since 2019, 78 animal companions have died from heat related causes (peta.org)
Additionally, according to the RSPCA in Queensland in Australia, they have these stats on animal distress calls about animals left in hot cars:
Each year, the RSPCA receives over 354,941 calls to our 1300 ANIMAL hotline. Every year there are over 1,000 distress calls about animals (usually dogs) being left in cars in the heat have been received
If we extrapolate these figures out to all countries in the world – it can be illustrated how there can be many more cases of animal heat stroke and dehydration globally.
How Long It Takes For A Dog To Die In A Hot Car?
It can take as little as 6 minutes for a dog to die in a hot car
Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes
How Hot Cars Can Get
A few estimations:
Tests conducted by Melbourne’s Metropolitan Ambulance Service on a 29 degree day with the car’s air conditioning having cooled the interior to a comfortable 20 degrees showed it took just 10 minutes for the temperature to more than double to 44 degrees. In a further 10 minutes it had tripled to a deadly 60.2 degrees
On a 70-degree day, the temperature inside one can soar to 99 degrees in 20 minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in just 10 minutes.
Symptoms Of Heat Stress, Heatstroke & Heat Exhaustion
Dogs suffering from heat stress may pant, drool and become restless. Over time, they become weak and the colour of their gums may change; they may also start to stagger and experience vomiting, diarrhoea or seizures (justsixminutes.com.au)
Watch for heatstroke symptoms such as restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination (peta.org)
In addition to heat stress and heat exhaustion, dogs can get severe dehydration from being inside a hot car.
heatkills.org also indicates that pets can get brain damage inside a hot car in as little as 10 minutes.
Why Dogs Are Specifically At Risk Inside Hot Cars
Humans are at risk inside hot cars.
But, dogs in particular are at risk.
The reason for this is that dogs ‘cool themselves by panting. If the air around them is too hot – particularly if they don’t have access to water – dogs are physically unable to regulate their body temperature’ (rspcavic.org)
Just a 2 degrees celsius increase in a dog’s body temperature [can cause heat stroke to kick in] (vets-now.com)
Common Misconceptions About Leaving A Dog In A Car
Window tinting, parking a car in the shade, or leaving the windows open do not help reduce the inside temperature [of the car] significantly (justsixminutes.com.au)
Emergency Treatment For Dogs Left In Cars
An animal professional is qualified to give you advice on treatment for dogs left in hot cars. Take a dog to the vet in a heat stroke emergency.
But, justsixminutes.com.au gives this general information about emergency treatment for dogs left in cars (this shouldn’t be a substitute for the advice of a vet):
Emergency treatment at home should aim to bring the body temperature down at a steady rate; spray cool water onto your dog’s body and use a fan. You can also help by applying rubbing alcohol or water to the armpits, foot pads and groin. Don’t use ice or ice-cold water, as this may cool your dog down too rapidly
Peta.org gives this information:
If a dog shows any … symptoms [of overheating], get him or her out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned vehicle, and then to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to transport the dog yourself, take him or her into an air-conditioned building if possible and call animal control: Tell them it is an emergency.
Provide water to drink, and if possible spray the dog with a garden hose or immerse him or her in a tub of cool (but not iced) water for up to two minutes in order to lower the body temperature gradually. You can also place the dog in front of an electric fan. Applying cool, wet towels to the groin area, stomach, chest, and paws can also help. Be careful not to use ice or cold water, and don’t overcool the animal.
Some Dogs May Be At More Risk Than Others
Dogs with short faces (such as pugs and bulldogs) can suffer in the heat because they find it difficult to breath.
Obese and aged dogs are also at greater risk, as are those with heart disease and thick coats
Other Heat Risks With Cars & Vehicles
Also be careful of leaving dogs in the open back of cars – such as in the tray of a utility vehicle. The surface of a tray can heat up very quickly and burn feet pads for example.
Penalties Apply In Some Places For Animal Suffering
Some jurisdictions have fines and punishments for suffering of dogs as a result of being left in a car.
What To Do Instead Of Leaving A Dog Inside A Car
Dogs should be left wherever there is comfortable conditions, as well as shade, shelter and water.
If you are going on a drive on a hot day, it might be best to leave your dog home instead of taking them inside your car.
What Can Be Done To Prevent Dogs Being Left In Hot Cars
Have laws and regulations in place to punish those who cause pets and dogs to suffer in general, but also for those who cause their pets/dogs to suffer in hot vehicles
Have media and public awareness campaigns about leaving dogs in hot cars
In some countries, you can call the police to inform them and report to them when you see a dog inside a hot car. Have someone keep an eye on the dog. Don’t leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
Peta.org gives this information on emergency situations where authorities are unresponsive or too slow to respond to reports of dogs in hot cars:
If the authorities are unresponsive or too slow and the dog’s life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back up your assessment, take steps to remove the suffering animal from the car, and then wait for authorities to arrive
Be aware that forcibly removing a dog from a car may have some risks such as injuring the dog with shattering glass, and there could also be legal implications such as damage to property (the car). This is something which probably needs more clarification legally.
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