"It's Getting Hot In Here...

This is Lhasa Apso named Copper. Age: 1 Gender...Image via Wikipedia
...So take off all your clothes..I am gettin' hot, I wanna take my clothes off."  Nelly would probably agree that you could take yours off, but your dog can't.  

Last Friday I was running into a food store trying to find the right brand of tomatoes for my homemade spaghetti sauce. I noticed a car with a Lhasa Apso laying down in the front seat, sleeping. The owner had barely cracked the window and the temperature outside was in the high 70’s. I started to panic wondering if this dog was ok.

What was I to do? I decided to go into the store and let the customer service desk know that this poor dog looked as if it was overheated.  I couldn’t tell if the dog was ok or not. I waited only to see that the owner came out to the parking lot thinking nothing of it. As she put her groceries in her car, I yelled out “please leave your pet at home or possibly drop your pet off first at home.” She did not hear me and drove off.  I was livid!   How could a person place a pet, that depends on people for its care, in a hot car?  How awful to barely crack a window and think that this is enough to prevent heatstroke?

After seeing this so many times before I decided that we all need to know what happens in a car with no ventilation or air, particularly on a warm day. According to PETA, "On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a car can climb to 97 degrees in just 10 minutes...so they can quickly succumb to heatstroke and suffer brain damage or death". That is an almost 20 degree jump in just 10 minutes, and sometimes that jump can be as high as 50 degrees in as little as 2 minutes.  "Recently, a dog died after being locked in a parked car on a sunny, 67°F day in Albany, New York".  If it is humid, that contributes to the danger of the excessive heat.  By the way, this situation is also dangerous for children and the elderly.

How do you recognize heatstroke?  According to WebMD, the following symptoms are indicative of heatstroke.
  • Heavy panting and difficulty breathing. 
  • The tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red. 
  • The saliva is thick and tenacious,
  • Vomitting, progressive unsteadiness and bloody diarrhea. 
  • As shock sets in, the lips and mucous membranes turn gray. 
  • The dog eventually collapses has seizures, will lapse into coma, followed by death.
It only takes a few minutes for your dog to suffer, pass out and die from heatstroke.  A dog starts to suffer within 2 minutes of being left in a car above 78 degrees. Just think of yourself locked in a car with no way out when the heat outside is stifling. We would start to panic. It's no different for your dog.  Remember dogs have feelings and can get sick just like humans.

It is easy to lose track of time when you are in a store and forget that your pet is locked in the car. Especially if your short shopping trip to the grocery store turns out to be a longer trip because you decide “oh I need this item too”.  Time goes by and your pet is helpless and sweltering, dying in your car.

What can you do to prevent killing your dog with heatstroke?
  • When you can, use the drive-thru instead of parking
  • If you must park, drive your pet home first, then do your shopping 
  • Always bring a bowl and bottled water for your pet (Are you thirsty? Pets sweat through their tongue they are even thirstier) 
  • If you see another person leaving a dog in the car run into the store where the car is parked and ask for the manager. Tell them that someone has locked their dog in a car and that leaving a dog in the car can be harmful and life threatening 
  • Call the police, they can help 
  • Have a family member or friend stay in the car with your pet while the air conditioner is on. 
  • Shop in pet-friendly stores so that you’re pet can shop with you 
If you are out and about and see a dog in a car and the dog looks like she/he is overheated please help.  Don't just walk away thinking someone else will intervene or that the owner will come out soon. Your voice and your actions can save a life.

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