Cars can become death traps in 10 minutes
“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.
“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.”
What to do if you see a dog in distress in a parked vehicle:
- Note the license plate and vehicle information and ask managers of nearby businesses to page the owner to return to their vehicle immediately;
- Call to report the hot dog in car situation if no owner is found or when animal is suffering symptoms of heatstroke. During the daytime, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, call the BC SPCA Provincial Call Centre at 1-855-622-7722 and staff will troubleshoot and help connect you with your local animal control agency or police. In an emergency, call 911 for RCMP attendance. Note: It is illegal for members of the public to break a window to access the vehicle themselves; only RCMP and Special Provincial Constables of the BC SPCA can lawfully enter a vehicle. SPCA branch staff and volunteers cannot enter vehicles.
- Keep emergency supplies – bottled water, a small bowl, a towel that can be soaked in water- in your car so that you help hydrate an animal (if a window has been left open) while you wait for emergency response; a battery-powered fan from a dollar store also can be handy to circulate air.
- Be an advocate! Help spread the word that pets and hot vehicles are a fatal mix. Put up a copy of our “Hot Pets? Not Cool!” infographic in stores, malls and other areas in your community where pets are left unattended in vehicles.
Dogs can’t release heat by sweating
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.