Hot cars not just dangerous for kids: dogs overheat more quickly than people


Did you know that on a 70-degree day, it only takes 20 minutes for the temperature inside your car to reach 99 degrees?

During the heat and humidity of summer days, the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association offers some tips to avoid a “hot car” emergency with your pet, and what to do if you find a dog locked in a hot car.

As of July 2015, Tennessee law allows people to break into hot cars if an animal is trapped inside, without fear of punishment, when certain steps are followed. The law extends the Good Samaritan law from just children to pets, as well, protecting individuals from civil liability for damages caused while trying to rescue a child or animal in danger. Steps must be taken to ensure the car is locked and not running, that the child or animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm, and notifying law enforcement. The change in the law was a direct result of how deadly hot cars can be for family pets.

Studies have shown that cracking vehicle windows have little impact on the heat inside. Similarly, the color of a vehicle, whether light or dark, has little bearing on how quickly the interior heat will become deadly. Dogs can’t sweat like humans, so they overheat more quickly than humans do. When a dog pants in an overly-hot enclosed area like a vehicle, they just recycle hot air and actually increase body heat due to increased muscular activity.

Dogs suffering heat stroke experience damage to blood vessels, kidneys and liver, disorientation, muscle tremors, seizures, and finally, coma and death. About 50% of dogs who undergo treatment for heat stroke do not survive, so it is extremely important to act quickly when an animal shows signs of distress.

If you believe your dog is experiencing heat stroke or if you find a dog in distress, call your veterinarian immediately. Cool the dog with room-temperature, tepid water – NOT ice. Wet the entire dog and place him or her in front of a fan. Do not force your pet to drink. Once at the veterinarian’s office, your vet will administer life-saving measures including oxygen therapy and fluid replacement, and monitor for organ failure. In most cases, a dog suffering heat stroke will need to say in the hospital for 24-48 hours.

Visit www.heatkills.org for more information about heatstroke in dogs.

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