Dangers Of Animals In Hot Cars

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People don’t like to be told not to do things. Sometimes, however, the safest and best choice is to just say, “NO. Do not do this. Not ever.” Running with scissors? Great example of something that you should NEVER do. Leaving your pet in a car? Unfortunately, that is also something you should just never do. As a veterinarian, I am sometimes asked for parameters that would be okay. How hot does it have to be before it’s not safe to leave your pet in a car? Unfortunately there are horror stories of pets left for very short amounts of time in a car in the shade on a very comfortable, even cool day only to be found dead. There are certain risk factors such as being overweight, brachycephalic (smooshed-nosed breeds), or having high anxiety that could predispose certain individuals to have even lower tolerance for being trapped in a car. In general, dogs are not designed to tolerate rapid temperature elevations, and the temperature inside a car will very quickly exceed the outside temperature. For example, on a 70 degreee day, the temperature inside a car can reach 100 degrees. On a 90 degree day, the temp inside the car can quickly reach 140 degrees! High temperature, or hyperthermia, can result in organ failure, DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation), Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, airway swelling leading to hypoxia, and unfortunately a horrifying death. They can actually be cooked and their proteins denatured. Leaving the car running with the air-conditioning on is not safe either, as pets have managed to roll down windows and escape or even dislodge emergency brakes and set cars moving! Heat prostration and hyperthermia can be caused by the excess humidity that builds up from panting. The risk of sudden death exists any time a pet is left in a car. So, don’t run with scissors and please do not ever leave your pet unattended in the car.

Author: Dr. Rebecca Merrifield

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