by LG Nixon
The weather has finally warmed up, a brilliant sun hangs suspended in a vivid blue sky, and an unfamiliar ribbon of road just beckons to be explored. Before you hit the open road, or run a few errands around town, we would like you to check the warm weather precautions below if you plan to take your four-legged buddy for a car ride.
DOGS DON’T SWEAT: Most people can tolerate a few elevated degrees in the car cabin, and some even enjoy the sweating process after shivering through those winter chills. However, our pets are unable to tolerate the temperatures that can quickly rise in a vehicle during warm weather. A dog’s body temperature is normally a few degrees warmer than that of their human counterpart, and because dogs don’t perspire by evaporative cooling like we do, they must pant to cool themselves off. If the air they are breathing is too warm, it does nothing to cool the animal and they can quickly overheat.
CASE IN POINT – As a young child, I remember our family travels always included the dog. On one such excursion, we stopped around mid-day for lunch at a little diner we found along the road. The family piled into the diner and enjoyed a wonderful lunch, replete with burgers and shakes. Ceasar, a young and iminutive Boston Terrier, was left in the car to wait. While the car was parked in a shaded area, and all the windows were cracked for air flow, the outside temperatures hovered in the eighties with heavy, humid air, and very little breeze. Grandmama thought the dog would be fine. However, the circumstances didn’t allow quality conditions for little Ceasar. When we returned to the car, the dog was frantic, weak, and hyperventilating. Our leisurely lunch just turned into a very serious, life-threatening situation.
We quickly grabbed several blankets from the trunk, spreading them on the grass in the shade and laid the dog down. While that was being done, another family member obtained several paper cups of water from the diner. After plying the dog with short sips of cool water, more water was gently dripped and stroked along his body to reduce his temperature. After several uncertain and very tense minutes, little Ceasar rallied, and we quickly returned home. Crisis adverted, lesson learned.
While Ceasar hadn’t suffered a severe heat stroke, and the vet declared him healthy, the episode had left him exhausted for days. Overheating places extreme stress on nearly all bodily functions. Even a few minutes in a sweltering car can cause complications like organ dysfunction, even brain damage, and worse, death. We all know we should never leave a child in a parked car, but every year children, and pets, die from vehicular heat exhaustion.
THE STUDIES CONFIRM IT: Heat Exposure Studies are conducted on almost a yearly basis by medical universities, and by independent researchers, and even veterinarians. The conclusion is pretty much the same. Whether in direct sunlight, shade, or even on a partly cloudy day, the inside temperature
of a closed vehicle can quickly soar in just a matter of minutes. For example, if the outside temperature on a cooler day is 70°, after ten minutes the inside
temperature can reach 89° and after thirty minutes, a sweltering 104°. An independent study, conducted by RedRover.org, an organization helping animals in crisis situations, shows there is a negligible difference between a closed vehicle, and a vehicle with the windows cracked open.
In another article, from the Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society, Volume 147 (12)1995, and in reference to child safety, studies were conducted using two different colored vehicles. Vehicle #1 was a dark sedan with closed windows, and Vehicle #2 was a mini-van with the windows cracked open. Temperatures for both vehicles were taken in 10-minute increments. The ending result was a difference of 2 or 3 degrees between the vehicles and cracking the windows open had little to no effect. I guess little Ceasar would confirm that finding as well. Don’t let your best buddy test this on his own. For a convenient and handy temperature reminder, go to veterinaryclinic.com and click on the free printable Car Temps Pet Safety Chart.
IT’S A HOT BED: Another potential high risk is an open truck bed where hot surfaces can cause not only overheating, but burns to exposed skin like foot pads, and the abdomen or forelegs, where hair is usually thinner. The interior surface of a truck bed can become extremely hot. While Fido riding in the
truck bed raises several other safety issues (avma.org), wind and sun can very quickly deplete hydration, and sun exposure can cause sunburn for short-haired dogs. Dogs with thicker coats are also at risk of overheating. It should also be noted that direct, or reflected sunlight, can damage your dog’s eyes, and
those pooches with light colored eyes are at a higher risk. You can check out the article at canidae.com for more information regarding sunlight and eye protection for your pet, or go to petmd.com, or petstreetmall.com for more news.
WHAT TO DO: If you suspect your pet has suffered heat exhaustion or heatstroke, move him to cooler surroundings immediately. Allow him short drinks of cool water if he is able but do not force him to drink. DO NOT immerse him in cool or cold water, or cover him in a wet blanket as it can drop his temperature too quickly. INSTEAD apply cool water by placing cool wet towels on the back of his neck and in his armpits, or along his groin. Even a gentle cooling drip of water to his feet and a cool compress to his ears can help. When he becomes more settled, take him to your vet as soon as possible. While he may appear to be recovering, there could be distress happening internally. For more helpful information on this topic, please visit bestfriends.org, or humanesociety.org for their warm weather precautions. The American Veterinary Medical Society also has numerous articles regarding warm weather pet safety.
Their website is avma.org.
When we are traveling with our pets, water is available where they can reach it, the windows are open several inches, the sun roofs are open but shaded, and often someone is in the car with them. I also time myself so they are never alone for more than a few minutes, and the errands are short events, like the
bank or pharmacy drive-thru, and dropping off the dry cleaning. On those occasions when I need to be gone longer, they have the freedom to lounge around at home or nap in their crate, not to mention averting another worry when traveling with Fido of someone stealing my best buddy. Leaving the car windows
down too far in warm weather raises the potential of theft.
Overheating is a serious issue. Ask yourself if you really need to take Fido or Meow-man with you. In hot weather, leave your pets at home. They will be glad you did.