By LuAnn McLain
When I got into my car today after it sat in the sun for about an hour, I was reminded how quickly cars heat up, even if the day is not particularly hot.
I generally advocate that if a pet goes along in a vehicle, it needs to be safely inside the vehicle. Usually we mean dogs but I have met the occasional person who travels with a cat.
This time of year and for the next four or five months the sun is hot enough to heat a car quickly enough to turn it into a death chamber for a pet. Extreme caution is necessary when deciding if the pet goes along in the vehicle during this season.
Because they don't cool themselves by sweating, dogs and cats are at a disadvantage in heat. They can only pant to try to cool down and they just can't do it enough when the air starts getting warm. They need cool air, water, and shade to be able to deal with the heat. This is easier for us to provide for them at home.
It is too easy to forget our pets when we go into a store. We may have planned a two-minute stop but met someone or became distracted looking for more than we came for. The ten minutes it takes could be critical to our pet's health.
Sitting in direct sun, it only takes a few minutes for the inside of a car to reach 160 degrees, even with the windows opened. That could be fatal for a human. For a dog or cat, because of the different cooling system in their bodies, it is deadly.
Shaded parking areas, open windows, or cars with air conditioning turned off won't save a pet's life if it gets too warm. On very hot days, especially if humid, it is just too warm for a pet to sit in a car, even if shaded.
The result of becoming too warm can be brain damage or even death from heatstroke. Here are signs of heat stress to be aware of: heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse rate, dizziness, vomiting, or deep red or purple tongue.
While vehicles are especially dangerous during hot weather, the heat is more difficult for pets to cope with than it is for us.
Dogs seem more vulnerable to problems with heatstroke probably because they are more likely to be active during the heat of the day. Cats usually are sleeping during the day and so are more able to stay cool.
Keep in mind that exercising your pet is best done during the cool hours of the morning or late evening. Access to shaded areas and water is crucial during the heat of the day. Even dogs and cats left at home can be at risk if they are confined.
A pet can knock over a water dish or his doghouse. If the pet is tied or confined, he is unable to seek a safer place.
If a pet becomes overheated it is a critical emergency! Get the animal to shade; apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest. Don't give the pet unlimited cold water. Instead, let the pet lick small amounts of ice cubes or ice cream. Then get your pet to the veterinarian immediately. It could save your pet's life.
If you must take your pet along in the car, have another person stay with your pet while you are gone. Ask the person to take the animal for a walk or a rest in the shade. Provide fresh cool water to drink.
If you see an animal enclosed in a car on a warm day, remember that ten minutes can be too late. Call the police for help. In some communities there may also be a humane organization that can help.
A pet panting, tongue greatly extended and flattened are both indicators of a dog overheating. A dog that is getting too hot in a car is likely to go as low in the car as he can, such as on the floor. These are true warning signs that the dog may be in danger.
Have a safe and happy summer. Don't let your cat or dog be one of the thousands that suffer or die needlessly every summer when left inside a car.
If you would like to write to Pawsitively Pets, please send your letter to P.O. Box 1731, Havre, MT 59501.