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Summertime Danger - Dogs in Parked Cars

Brenda pulled up to the grocery store. Her Pekinese, Trixie sat beside her. Outside temperature:  82į F. Brenda parked in the sun (there was no shade). She left the air conditioner on and Trixie inside the car. Thirty-minutes later, she returned to find Trixie dead. What happened?

Brendaís car is a computer-operated model. While the car baked in the sun, the engine overheated. The computer sensing the overheating, shut down the air conditioning and turned on the heater. Trixie never had a chance.

Even in an older car, Trixie would have been in grave danger. In ten minutes inside the car, the interior temperature would have rose to 109į F. In twenty minutes to 120į. Trixie died of hyperthermia (heat stroke). In other words, her brain fried. A larger dog might have only suffered brain damage.

ďBut I crack my windows!Ē

Even with windows cracked, cars become doggy-bake ovens in the hot sun. Parking in the shade wonít help because shade shifts.

Try this experiment on a hot summer day. Drive your car to the mall. Park in the sun. Roll up the windows, turn off the air conditioner and see if you can sit there for ten minutes without sweating, finding it difficult to breathe or panicking. Use an interior thermometer and watch the temperature climb steadily. Now, think of your dog:

Dogs sweat two ways, through open-mouth panting and through glands in their paws. They cool themselves by panting and sweating. Unlike cats (who are a bit smarter) they donít cool themselves by grooming.

Dogs canít roll down windows, open the door, or take a drink of the bottled water sitting tantalizingly close-by. They have to deal with the environment forced on them.

If she could talk, I rather think, that on that hot summer day when Brenda asked:  ď Trixie, want to go for a ride?Ē Trixie would have looked outside, shook her head, and ambled back to her cool indoor spot, where she was safe.

Leave your dog home on hot or warm summer days, if the dog is going to be left in a parked car.  If you are headed out to the lake for water games with your dog, more power to you. But otherwise, put her in a shaded kennel, or inside her crate inside the house with the air on.

What to do if you find a dog locked inside a car

If you find a dog unconscious in a car and the doors are unlocked, this is what you do.

  • Remove the dog immediately from the car and carry it a shady spot. If you are in a parking lot and there is no shade. Open up your car door- lay a towel, a sunshade, a blanket, a coat, anything over the top of the door to create a roof.
  • The dog needs cool water-not cold on her body. You can put ice on her head. If you can, get damp towels and wrap her up.
  • Head to the vet. Leave a note on the car letting the owner know what vet. But donít wait for the owner because time is your enemy with heat stroke.

If the car is locked- write down the license number, color, make of the car and run into the store to have them find the owner. If you are at a place where there is more than one store, then dial 911, they will patch you through to the proper authorities.

Symptoms of heat-stroke

  • Restless pacing
  • Excessive thirst
  • Open-mouthed, heavy panting
  • Lethargy
  • Refusal to eat
  • Tongue becomes darkened (the membranes are swelling) soon the tongue will swell.
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Unsteady (wobbling) on her limbs.
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Donít allow your dog to ride in the back of a pick-up truck. In the summer even though she will be getting warm wind on her, she still is in danger of the pads of her feet burning from contact with the hot metal. Not to mention, if you have to brake suddenly, she could be thrown out of the truck.

Although itís tempting to travel with your pet at all times, use common sense. Leave your pet at home in the summer.

Keeping your dog cool

  • Be sure the dog has access to cool, fresh water at all times.
  • Donít chain her or confine her without ample shade.
  • Apply sunblock to light-colored ears and pink noses (skin cancer)
  • Clip long-haired dogs- but donít shave them. Hair protects against the UV rays of the sun.
  • Buy a plastic kiddy-pool. Fill it with cool water, and put a block of ice in the middle of it.
  • Hose your dog down with cool water during hot, windless days.
  • Groom your dog daily.
  • Take advantage of nearby lakes and streams.
  • On beaches, remember; burning sand on paw-pads can damage paws.
  • Walk your dog early in the morning before the sidewalks and roads heat up.

Dogs ARE manís best friend. Be their caretakers not their undertakers.


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