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Dozens of pets die each year after being left alone in hot cars

Last updated on June 11, 2021

Even if it is overcast and cloudy,  the temperature inside a car can exceed 120° in a matter of minutes—even with the windows partially open. On an 85 degree day, the temperature inside a car can rise to approximately 119 degrees in 30 minutes. This is similar to the dead of summer in the deserts of Saudi Arabia.  With summer months continuing to warm up, remember that you should never leave your pet in a parked car. 

According to PETA, from 2018 to 2019, 78 pets suffered heatstroke and died in hot cars. Franklin Police Department Captain Devin Holland said that the police department responds to dozens of calls annually involving pets in hot cars.

“Franklin Police Department frequently responds calls of pets left in vehicles,” said Holland. “It’s important to know according to the Humane Society of the United States that on a typical 85° summer day, the temperature inside a vehicle with windows opened slightly can reach 102° within 10 minutes. Pets can suffer irreversible organ damage when exposed to high temperatures. Please leave your pets at home if there is a chance you have to leave them in a vehicle.”

Pets can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke or suffocation if left alone in a hot car. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to sweat. They rely mainly on their respiratory tract to dissipate heat. Dogs with more nasal surface area (think Greyhounds, German Shepherds and Labs) are more efficient at dispelling heat, while “smush faced” breeds (like Pugs, Bulldogs or Shih Tzus) are more prone to overheating due to shorter nasal passages.

Normal temperature for a canine is from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Heatstroke is defined as a state of extreme hyperthermia with body temperatures of 106-109 degrees, resulting in thermal injury to body tissues.

  If your pet has been exposed to high temperatures, it is important to know the signs to look for surrounding heat stress — heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting or a deep red or purple tongue.

If your pet is overheated, move him to a cooler area and take these emergency steps:

1. Gradually lower his body temperature by sprinkling cool

water on him. Do not soak him in cool or cold water because

his temperature could drop too low.

2. Place cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the

armpits, and in the groin area. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Direct a fan on the wet areas to speed evaporative cooling.

3. You may offer fresh, cool water if your dog is alert and wants to drink. Do not force your pet to drink.

Take your pet immediately to a veterinarian—it could save his life. Call ahead, if possible, to be sure your veterinarian is available.

• If you see an animal in a car exhibiting signs of heat stress, call your local animal care and control agency or police department immediately and take the following steps:

1. Get the vehicle’s tag number and enter the nearest store or

business to request an emergency announcement be made

about a pet left in a hot car.

2. Go back and wait for law enforcement at the vehicle.

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