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Summer Heat - Do You Leave Your Pet Safely Behind Two Doors…or in Deadly Doors?

By: Margie Wilson

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Many pet lovers look forward to summer and all that comes with it including outdoor fun, travel, family time. The most important thing you can do to keep your pet safe.

As you exit your door at home and enter your vehicle - Think about it this way - as you go out the door of your home and into the doors of your vehicle – if you take your pet – you could be leaving doors of safety and entering doors of death – if you leave your dog in the car.

Your pet should be with you, or with a pet sitter you trust if you cannot take him/her along.

Is it Safe to Leave Your pet at Home? Well...it Depends...

Perhaps. Did you leave your pet in a controlled environment? If hot, do you have air conditioning or fans on? What if the power goes out? Does he have a cool place to go and plenty of water? Do you have a way to check on him (web cam, stopping home, a neighbor)? If so, great!

Many pets, however, die in the home when owners have been gone all day. The owners left the animal in the cool morning hours, only to find the beloved family member dead due to excessive heat they didn't expect. Plan for this. You never know what can happen. (Once I found the water bottles for my house rabbits had stopped functioning. No matter how much they licked the bottle, the little stopper at the bottom malfunctioned. Since then, I leave a bowl of water and a water bottle. Things happen.) A home with direct sun and/or no air conditioning can be a deadly trap for your animals, indoors or out.

How Hot is Hot? How Hot does a Car Get and How Quickly? Important Facts!

According to the Humane Society of the United States, a car on a warm day with the windows cracked can reach 85F degrees in ten minutes, and 102 F in twenty minutes. After 30 minutes, the inside temperature is at least 120 F degrees which is more than enough to kill any pet or child!

Please note - puppies and short-muzzled dogs like Boxers, senior dogs, dogs with heart, lung or airway disease are much more susceptible).

How about an a Quick Run for Coffee!

Don't underestimate heat.

This is a sad but true story. A dog walker friend lost her Boxer at a Starbucks after just 15 minutes. Her car was parked when it was cloudy, only low 70's. She left the windows two inches all around. What she didn't see was the sun coming out shortly after she went inside. Returning to her car, she saw her dog in distress, weak, falling over. Despite rushing him to the vet, it was too late. She didn't think of getting water on him first to cool him down. It may not have saved him. The humidity in the air often can make the temperature feel much hotter. The eastern U.S is very humid compared to say California, so lower temperatures in high humidity can be more dangerous. Don't go by the temperature alone. Just don't leave your pets in cars without you!

Just last week in Canada, a civilian woman faces criminal charges after she, too, left her lab with no windows open for over three hours. (http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110616/dog-dies-car-huntsville/20110616/?hub=TorontoNewHome) One death is too much. In the United States, domestic animals are dying daily due to our carelessness. The number is in the thousands dying every year in cars, hot backyards, classrooms. We need to change this.

Here is the bottom line-You wouldn't want to sit in that car with a fur coat on, so don't make your dog (animal or child) do it. Try it sometime, alone. Sit in the car with the windows cracked without your dog on days over 70 degrees....see how long you stay comfortable, and you don't have a fur coat! You know how to get out. Your animal needs you to let him out.

Police Officers and Their K-9's are Not Exempt

I've been a reserve police officer, and my best riding days were with the K-9 police dogs. These dogs are treated so well, as they should be for putting their lives on the line to protect their handlers. But here, too, the door of the car can be a prison for the warrior K-9 when we trust technology. Just this week in Pennsylvania, a police dog died in the car, even though it was equipped with all the latest technology that was supposed to let the officer know if the temperature got too hot. (http://www.ydr.com/ci_18245207). This same week in Ohio, another police dog died when the air conditioning left on in the car malfunctioned. (http://sewickley.patch.com/articles/sewickley-takes-safety-precautions-to-protect-k-9-officer). Those were two very expensive loved K-9 animals...gone in the same week; a tragedy for all.

Not Just Dogs...

We hear about children left in cars and other animals. The home or the car can be deadly behind doors if precautions are not in place. Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, small animals (think fur...how would you feel wearing one in your home all day?), are susceptible to heat stroke. Even if not doesn't feel that hot to us, they can be miserable all day while waiting for us to return due to our carelessness to look out for their comfort/needs.

Signs of Heat Stroke...

So you come across a dog/animal in a hot car, suffering, what do you do? Call Animal Control or the police; both will help. Go inside and ask the store's manager to use the speaker to ask for the owner. A dog's normal temperature is between 101 F and 102 F degrees. Rabbits are a bit higher (approx. 101 F and 103 F). Temperatures rise very quickly in heat.

Signs of heat related problems in an animal:

  • Being in a hot car, direct sun, running/playing nonstop in very hot weather
  • Dogs-excessive panting, long tongue dripping (bright red in color)
  • Excessive anxiety, unusual panting, lack of water to drink, extreme heat
  • Near fatal signs-weakness, seizures, collapse.

    If you wait, next is death! Even waiting this long can lead to irreversible organ damage. Get cool water on the animal, and get to a vet! Remember with short-muzzle dogs, you have even less time to get them help. The police can often get there much faster than Animal Control officers who are spread across many cities.

    Rabbits and Smaller Pets-Frozen Water Bottles to the Rescue

    Rabbits cannot sweat. So overheating is a true concern.

    Rabbits don't pant as dogs, so you need to be there for them to ensure that they don't overheat. Provide rabbits with frozen water bottles, cold wet towels, and air conditioning. Never ever allow your rabbit to be housed in direct sun.

    Outdoors is no place for a rabbit anyway; more are killed outdoors due to predators, heat, than indoors by far. For your small animals, keep frozen water bottles in your freezer. (To prepare, freeze ¾ full water bottle with the cap slightly loose upright. When frozen, screw on cap tightly, and place next to your rabbit/pet). Last summer near me, we had an unusual heat wave. Many children lost their school hamsters, Guinea Pigs due to the heat alone in one day. Don't forget the school animals! Have someone check in during midday and later afternoon. Keep your veterinarian's number by your animal at all times.

    You Can Help

    Educate as many as you can about animals and heat. Pass it along to teachers and parents. Be vigilant as you walk through shopping centers-look at cars to see if any animals are left in the hot sun or in distress. You may be his only hope to save his life.



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