The proverbial “dog days of summer” are here, and The Animal Haven in North Haven would like to remind you that your dog can die in a hot car, even if you’re gone for only a few minutes. Across the country each year, thousands of animals are needlessly lost this way. “We think we’re doing our beloved pets a favor by bringing them along for a car ride on a hot day,” says Dr. Arnie Cary, DVM, and board member of The Animal Haven, “but when a five-minute errand turns into a 10-15 minute one, the result can be lethal for the pet.” Cracking the windows to let in air is not sufficient, nor is parking in a shady spot—as the sun moves that shade can become full sun within minutes. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the temperature inside your car in the sun will increase by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. You may think it’s a pleasant 80 degrees, but that becomes 100 in the car in that short time. In 20 minutes it can increase by 30 degrees to 110, and in only 40 minutes, almost 40 degrees, to 120.
Dogs typically do very poorly in the heat, so these temperatures are killers. They don’t perspire like we do, and the only way they can cool themselves is by panting, which evaporates moisture from the upper respiratory tract. A hot car makes for very poor evaporation conditions, causing your dog’s body temperature to increase rapidly, which leads to heat stroke and brain damage in a very short time.
In Connecticut, under certain circumstances, people can be charged with animal cruelty for leaving their pet in a parked vehicle in adverse weather. If you see a dog in a car on a hot day, the Humane Society advises you to record the car’s make, model, and license plate number, try to alert the owner by asking nearby businesses to make an announcement, and call animal control or the police’s non-emergency number. Stay with the dog if you can until help arrives.
The term “dog days” of summer originated with the Greeks, and referred to the time when Sirius, the dog star, rose before the sun. This usually happened during the hottest time of the year. It has come to mean days that are so hot, even dogs don’t want to do much but lie around. So, remember to take this advice “Sirius-ly,” and never leave your dog in the car in the summer heat, for any length of time.