In three minutes your dog could be dead.

In three minutes your dog could be dead.

You’re driving to the store and you want to take Duke. The day is lovely, warm, the sun stretched across the sky. You park in the shade, leave the windows open slightly, and you’re back to the car in a mere fifteen minutes.

While you are gone, however, the temperature begins to soar – within a few minutes your car becomes a roasting oven. A Stanford University test found that even if it’s only 72°F outside, a car’s internal temperature rockets to 116°F in a very short time. You’re almost through the check-out line, and Duke is fighting for his life. When it is 80°F outside, a car’s temperature inside rises to 99°F in 10 minutes, and to 109°F in 20 minutes, a San Francisco State University study found. Because dogs, swathed in fur, can only cool down by panting and sweating through their paws, the heat is especially deadly.

Every year, hundreds of beloved canine companions die in parked cars from heatstroke while their guardians leave them, often for “just a few minutes.” This can happen even if you leave the windows cracked – there isn’t enough air circulation to compensate for the rising temperature. It can happen if you park in the shade – a car in the shade on a balmy 78°F day reaches internal temperatures of over 90°F quickly. In the sun, make it over 160°F. Humidity makes it even worse.

Dogs, whose normal body temperature ranges between 100.5°F to 102.5°F, can withstand only minor increases to their body temperature for extremely short period of time before suffering heatstroke, often resulting in brain damage, or even death.

Leaving your dog in a parked car on even a mildly warm day could result in a terribly high price to pay for a quick shopping trip.

Leave Duke safely at home.


Signs of heatstroke to watch for include the following: rapid panting; wide eyes; excessive drooling; trouble breathing; anxious expression; increased heart rate; thick saliva; bright red tongue or dark tongue; refusal to obey commands; staring; warm, dry skin; high fever; vomiting; staggering or lack of coordination; restlessness; excessive thirst; lethargy; lack of appetite; collapse or loss of consciousness; and seizure.

What to do if tragedy does strike: call 911 immediately as well as a veterinarian—heatstroke is a medical emergency. Follow the veterinarian’s specific directions.

While you wait for help, address the situation first:

* Get animal out of an overheated car immediately and in to the shade
* Apply towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the animal’s body to lower the temperature, including the head, neck, and chest area, or hold icepacks to these areas.
* If necessary, immerse the dog in lukewarm (not cold) water.
* Offer water for the dog to drink
* Keep the dog calm while you go to the veterinarian, where medication can be given to prevent or reverse brain damage, further cooling techniques can be undertaken, and intravenous fluids administered.

What can you do to avoid this tragedy?

* Be a true animal guardian—never, ever leave your animal companions in the car. If they can’t come with you, leave them at home where they will have shade, food, water, and air circulation.
* Don’t leave your animals in cages in the sun, chained, or in an outdoor run without sufficient shade, air circulation, or fresh water (*water should always be provided in bowls that cannot be tipped over).
* Ask your veterinarian if your dog could use a summer haircut.
* If you see a dog left alone in a car, get the car’s make, model, color, and license plate, and ask the nearest store to page the animal’s guardian, or call the local humane society, police, or mall security. These authorities can do whatever it takes to get the dog out of the car.
* Help others understand these dangers in any way you can. United Animal Nations’ My Dog is Cool Campaign is designed for this purpose and can supply flyers, posters, and other outreach material with such slogans as “Don’t leave me in here—it’s hot!”
* Go to’s Web site to determine how hot a car gets at various ambient temperatures, and to get an instant current temperature reading for any location.
* Go to In Defense of Animal’s Web site’s Guardian Campaign page, to learn more about ways you can help change people’s thinking about their companion animals by replacing the term “owner” with the term “guardian” when referring to the animals with whom we share our lives.

This blog was contributed by guest blogger and IDA Staffer E.Read Adams.

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