Dogs Left in Hot Cars is Not Just a Summer Problem

Dogs Left in Hot Cars is Not Just a Summer Problem

The conversation regarding dogs left in hot cars has significantly increased in recent years and has led to changes in legislation and the ways law enforcement handle dogs left in hot cars, which is an improvement. However, this important topic shouldn’t be left as a conversation of summer.

Today, in the East Bay it is supposed to reach 100 degrees. Yes, the beautiful Fall Season started last week, but that doesn’t mean that the year’s hot temperatures are behind us. Therefore, I would like today’s post to serve as a reminder that leaving a pet in the car is dangerous throughout the year, not just during the summer.

Here to discuss the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car and to provide some additional insight is Dr. Sarah Nold, DVM from Trupanion.

While the topic of dogs left in hot cars has been discussed widely in recent years, why do you think some people still believe that cracking the window is enough?

It comes down to awareness. Some people still don’t understand that it doesn’t have to be in the 80’s or 90’s to be too hot or that “I’ll only be a few minutes” can be too long, but that is what we’re trying to change. A study on heat stress from enclosed vehicles found that on average there is a 40-degree increase in internal temperature with outside temperature ranging from 72 F to 96 F.  The study also found cracking windows open did not decrease the rate of temperature rise in the vehicle.  In other words, it can be a relatively cool day and the temperature within your car can still quickly rise enough to put your pet at risk for heat stress or stroke. 

What types of dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke?

Brachycephalic (short-nosed or flat faced) dogs, overweight/obese dogs or those with heavy/thick coats are going to be affected at lower temperatures and in a shorter period of time.  Your dog can also get overheated if it is very anxious or excited while waiting in the car, even on cooler days.

What can pet parents do if they see a dog left in a hot car? 

You could report the make, model and license plate number to any local businesses in an attempt to try to track down the pet’s owner.  However, as it is illegal to leave a dog in a hot car in California and it doesn’t take long for heat stroke to occur it would be best to call 911.

Do you think that car companies and driving apps (like Waze) will start implementing technology to tell people their car is too hot for their dog?

I think this could help for dogs and children, but there are a lot of variables that could make this difficult to be accurate for everyone.  It is still important for people to use common sense.  When in doubt leave your dog home. 

While on a road trip or traveling with your dog, what can people do to keep their pets cool at the gas station or other standard stops?

If possible, this is a good opportunity to take your dog to a shady area to stretch their legs and/or use the restroom.  Frequently offer water, adding ice cubes to the water if available.  While you could leave the a/c running in your car, people passing by may not realize you have done this.  Also, the a/c could fail and you wouldn’t know until you got back to your car. I recommend setting the parking brake on your car if you do choose to leave your dog in the car.

How many heatstroke claims does Trupanion see in California each year?

In 2015, Trupanion saw 250 heat stroke claims from California, a state that has a high number of them with over 20% of all heatstroke claims received come from California. The average amount paid out on claims of heat stroke is around $1,300.

As we will be in cooler temperatures in just a few months, is there anything pet parents should know about leaving their pets in the car when it’s too cold?

Your car can rapidly cool down in cold weather.  Pets that are very young, thin or old are going to be more susceptible to cold temperatures.  It’s best to never leave your pet in the car.  If you are going somewhere your pet can’t come with you it is better to leave your pet at home, with a friend or at a boarding facility.

I want to thank Trupanion and Dr. Nold for sharing insight regarding dogs left in hot cars. Remind you friends and family that the elements can affect their dog’s health much sooner than they anticipate!

Have you ever witnessed a dog left in a hot car? What did you do?

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