With more than 150 calls about animals in hot vehicles already received by the BC SPCA this year, the animal welfare society is again, reminding people to leave their pets at home if they can’t keep them safe.
“People don’t realize just how quickly their cars can become death traps for their pets – it can take as little as 10 minutes for the vehicle to reach temperatures where the animal can suffer irreparable brain damage or death,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA, noting that the BC SPCA received 1,529 calls about animals in hot vehicles in 2015. “We know that if people are taking their pets with them, it’s because they love them and want to spend time with them, but we really do encourage pet guardians to please, leave their pets at home when they’re going out in the car.”
In just minutes, the temperature in a parked car can climb to well over 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Dogs have no sweat glands, so they can only cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws, which they cannot do in a vehicle that has become an oven, she notes. Dogs can withstand high temperatures for only a very short time – in some cases just minutes – before suffering irreparable brain damage or death.
Pet guardians should be alert to heatstroke symptoms, which include: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting), rapid or erratic pulse, salivation, anxious or staring expression, weakness and muscle tremors, lack of coordination, convulsions or vomiting, and collapse.
If your dog shows symptoms of heatstroke, you should do the following:
- Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place
- Wet the dog with cool water
- Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This will cool the blood, which reduces the animal’s core temperature.
- Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow, which will inhibit cooling.
- Allow the dog to drink some cool water (or to lick ice cream if no water is available)
- Take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment.
“Your dog will be much happier – and safer – at home, with shade and plenty of fresh cool water,” Chortyk says. “It is such a preventable tragedy.”
If people see a dog in a hot car who they think is in distress, they should call municipal animal control authorities or local law enforcement immediately.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.