Warning! The Dangers of a Hot Car for Animals and What You Can Do
With summer quickly approaching, you probably have barbecues, picnics, and afternoon trips to the dog park on your mind. As temperatures steadily increase and before you hop in the car with your furry friend to head out on adventures, there’s no better time to consider a serious pet safety issue: the dangers of a hot car.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, hundreds of animals pass away each year from heat exhaustion after being locked in parked cars.
The saddest part of this story is that most owners don’t know the dangers of leaving an animal in a parked car during the warmer months. Most people think that animals will be fine in the car for “just a minute” and leave them, only to come back to a tragic loss.
What are the dangers of leaving your animal in a hot car?
It gets hotter (faster) than you think.
When it comes to warmer temperatures, there’s no safe amount of time to leave your animal in a parked car. Melbourne’s Metropolitan Ambulance Service conducted a study to test the changing interior temperature of a car on a summer day, with outdoor temperatures of 85 degrees.
They first brought down the interior temperature of the car with air conditioning to a cool and comfortable 68 degrees. Then they parked the car and tested the interior temperature at different intervals.
They found that the interior of the car more than doubled, to 111 degrees, in just 10 minutes. After 20 minutes it reached the deadly temperature of over 140 degrees.
Another study performed by the Louisiana Office of Public Health found that both light and dark cars parked in either direct sunlight or partial shade exceeded interior temperatures of 125 degrees in 20 minutes.
It gets significantly hotter inside a car on a warm day than you probably imagined. Even more concerning, it gets hotter faster than you probably imagined as well. Your pet can suffer from heatstroke, brain damage, and even death from exposure to rising temperatures in the time it takes you to run into the supermarket and grab groceries.
What are the signs of heatstroke?
If your pet or another animal has been exposed to dangerously high temperatures as a result of being left in the car, you’ll want to check for signs of heatstroke.
Some common symptoms of heatstroke include:
- High body temperature
- Excessive panting
- Thick saliva
- Sticky, dry, or dark/bright red tongue and gums
- Rapid heartbeat
- Bloody diarrhea or vomiting
- Lack of coordination
What should you do if you see an animal in a parked car?
If you see an animal locked in a car on a hot day, take down the make, model, color, and license plate of the vehicle. If you’re in a commercial area, have the owner paged at the nearest buildings.
Call the authorities. Below is the animal control information for several areas around Katy, but if you’re not sure exactly which county you’re in, calling 9-1-1 is always a safe option.
- City of Katy Animal Control
- Fort Bend County Animal Services
- Harris County Animal Control Services
- Animal Control of Waller County, Texas
Don’t leave the scene until the authorities or the owner arrive.
If the animal is in clear distress, and you feel it’s in imminent danger, you might need to take more drastic action. Find a few people to act as witnesses and testify to the necessity to take immediate action. Then take whatever steps necessary to remove the animal from the heated car, including breaking a window or windshield to get the animal to safety.
While damaging other people’s property (in this case, their car) shouldn’t be your immediate reaction, chances are they’ll be so glad you were able to save their animal that they won’t be concerned with the damage.
If they did decide to press charges, it’s unlikely that you would face a penalty. While Texas does not currently have a specific law in place to protect dogs in locked cars, the act of breaking a car window to save a dog on a hot day is covered under the Good Samaritan Act.
What do you do after you rescue an animal from a hot car?
If you’re forced to rescue an animal from a hot car, you’ll need to take immediate action to preserve the animal’s life. Get the animal into air conditioning. If you haven’t already, call animal control or the authorities, and let them know you have an emergency.
While you’re waiting for animal control, you’ll want to take action to bring the animal’s body temperature down. Give the animal water to drink, and apply cool, wet towels to its paws, chest, groin, and stomach.
If possible, you’ll also want to hose down the animal or immerse it in cool water. It’s important to use cool and not ice-cold water because using water that is too cold can cause blood vessels to constrict and can actually interfere with the animal’s cooling process.
Once you’ve made the animal as comfortable as you can, wait for animal control or the authorities to arrive; it’s important to get the animal to the vet as soon as possible to begin treatment.
Additional Tips to Protect Animals from Dangerous Summer Conditions
Hot cars aren’t the only place animals will encounter the North Texas heat. Here are some tips to make sure they stay safe throughout the long summer.
- Consider going on walks early in the day or later in the evening, when the temperature is cooler.
- Invest in a cooling vest or body wrap.
- Be mindful of humidity — Many animals have trouble cooling themselves off in highly humid temperatures, so keep animals inside on humid days.
- Always have cool water on hand, and add ice cubes on extra hot days.
- Instead of bringing it on every adventure, opt to leave your animal at home or in boarding during the summer months — with plenty of shade, water, and air conditioning, of course).
- Add Katy Animal Control (or your nearest facility) to your speed-dial in case of an emergency.
- Take a pet CPR class in case you encounter an animal that has stopped breathing due to heatstroke.
The summer can be a wonderful time for you and your family, including your furry family members. Taking the necessary precautions to ensure your pet is safe from the dangers of a hot car will lead to a wonderful summer for everyone!