one green planet
one green planet

Here’s an experiment to try: grab your iPhone and start the stopwatch app as you get out of your car to run one errand, the kind you’d run with your pet on a routine day. Time how long it would actually take to make that “quick” stop at the bank or grocery store. I did this experiment and was horrified to see that my four-item grocery list took 25 minutes to purchase. In 25 minutes, my dog would have suffered or died sitting out in my car in the heat.

In case after case, we learn it takes only five to ten minutes for a pet to succumb to the extreme summer heat. Consider this: your dog can’t understand how important it is to stay calm and quiet. He or she anticipates getting out of the car with you, and gets frustrated when left behind and begins pacing around. This spikes the heart rate and respiration even before the heat kicks in.

Yet each of us is likely guilty of stopping for a quick errand on the way home from the vet, or running to the bank after the dog park. But when the line is long, do we abandon the shopping and rush to the car? Not often enough. That’s why, as much as we love our pets, we need to stop taking them along on those trips that don’t welcome them at every single stop. As the caretakers and guardians of our companion animals, it’s imperative that we put their best interest first and leave them in the comfort of home and air conditioning. We must also encourage others to do the same. If people don’t understand the dangers, there is an infographic that serves as a quick lesson that any car, parked for any length of time, is just too hot for a pet.

Things to Keep in Mind

It’s critical to remember that while we love our pets as family members we need to respect their physiological differences. The humidity that we call muggy or stifling is life-threatening to our pets. Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs which helps cool them. Elevated humidity prevents this from happening efficiently and our pets can be in danger faster than we think. Add heat with humidity on a prime-time summer day and the mix can be deadly. On an 80 degree day of normal humidity, a car will reach 99 degrees in ten minutes!

Summer Heat Danger Exceeds Car Trips

Don’t forget that cars are not the only threat to our pets in the summer—exercise and exposure can endanger our best friends too. No morning run is worth your dog’s health, so leave him or her home on hot days. Even at picnics and parks, keep a close eye on the pooches. Dogs need constant access to clean, cool water and adequate shade to avoid overheating.

Watch for the early signs of heatstroke or heat-related illness: anxiety and restlessness, constant heavy panting, red, inflamed gums, or feeling hot to our touch on the ears. Be prepared to move your pet to better shade or indoors to air conditioning at the first sign of trouble and you might just save yourself a trip to the veterinary emergency clinic.

Injuries and deaths due to summer heat are always tragic but the loss of a beloved pet to such an unnecessary cause raises an opportunity. These deaths are some of the most preventable cases of animal suffering because each and every citizen can make a difference. Local government and many state governments are tightening restrictions on leaving pets in cars, and expanding law enforcement’s latitude in freeing an animal believed to be in danger from a parked car.

Our pets are simply better off spending their summer days lounging on the couch at home in the air conditioning, waiting for our return with bright eyes and a wagging tail. For more information and to learn how to help a pet in a parked car, visit The Humane Society of the United States’ website.

Image source: Andrew Bardwell/Flickr