This blog was originally written 6/28/09, however, every summer we still respond to hundreds of calls for dogs in vehicles! The news stations are already reporting about dogs being found in vehicles at a certain mall in our area. And we have also already seen an increase in calls. And we haven't even hit the triple digits yet! So once again I remind eveyone to just leave your pets home!
Yesterday it was 104+ degrees depending on where you were. Today it was 102+ degrees. I had 3 separate calls today within 1 hour for dogs being left in cars in parking lots. Lucky for the owners they were gone before I got there today. The heat makes me cranky, and dogs locked in cars on warm days makes me even
more cranky. The hotter it is the crankier I get. I don't tolerate heat well, and I tolerate dogs locked in cars even less.
I just don't get how people can think it's OK for them to leave their dogs in their cars when it's this hot!
Had the owners not have gotten to there car before I did, they would be coming to their vehicle with their dog on my truck, a possible broken window, if the door is locked or can't be opened and a police officer standing by to issue a misdemeanor citation. IF the owner is lucky, the dog won't need to be rushed to the ER Vet for treatment for severe heat stroke, which will not only increase the price of the citation for having the dog in the car, but they will be charged with animal cruelty and be responsible for what can be a very expensive vet bill.
Well these owners really lucked out. I can only hope the dogs are so lucky.
It doesn't take long for the effects of heat to cause a dog to become sick with heat stroke. More on that in a minute.
Speaking of minutes, what is the #1 excuse that people have when busted with their dogs in the car? "I was only gone for 10 minutes."
That my friends is a load of (bleep).
Who knows how long the dog has been in the car when someone sees it in the parking lot. If that person has a cell phone it takes them at least a couple of minutes to figure out who to call. If they don't have a cell phone, add a couple minutes on for them to go in the store and alert the store staff. The store staff then takes a few minutes to contact police dispatch or animal control. So let's say this takes at least 5-10 minutes itself. And by the time the dispatch goes to a police officer or animal control, it's possibly another 5 minutes. That brings us to at least 15 minutes now. Not 10 minutes any longer, but 15 minutes at this point. Our response time? At the very least 10 minutes, unless we are in the same parking lot which is not likely. So add another 10 minutes. This brings us to 25 minutes. So when I get there and the owner shows up and I have been there for 5 to 10 minutes already and I get that "I was only gone for 10 minutes" bull pucky.
I just want to shake people and yell "What the heck were you thinking!?!?!" Or make them sit in their car for the same amount of time that their dog had to endure. But I remain calm and do what I need to do to professionally get the point across that they are jackasses.
When I cleared from the last dog in car call, I had an idea. I went about conducting my own experiment. I carry 2 thermometers, one for checking the internal temperature of the vehicles, one for checking animals' temperatures.
I checked the temp in my truck cab with the AC running. 65*. I checked with the National Weather Service and at that time it was 102*. Then I parked the truck in the shade, turned it off, rolled the windows down 4 inches (open just enough for a large dog to stick his head out). In just these 5 minutes of preparation, the temp inside the truck was already 80*. In 10 minutes, the temp was 100*, with windows down and in the shade. That is only 2* degrees less than outside.
Now my 2nd experiment, I turned the AC back on, and moved to a sunny location. Which is more typical of parking lots. It's rare to find a parking space in the shade at almost all big box stores. In the sun the temp when from the AC 65* to 100* in 5 minutes (truck off, windows rolled down 4 inches). In just 5 minutes, the temp climbed 35*! By the time it got to 10 minutes, the temp was at 120*. So in 10 minutes the temp went up 55* degrees!
A dog’s temperature is normally between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. A rise of a mere 3 degrees can be fatal for a dog. After 104, heat stroke is setting in. From here, the effects just begin to spiral out of control. The rise in temperature creates a higher need for oxygen which the dog needs to pant. Especially in a car a dog can not keep up with the demand for oxygen and the temperature continues to rise.
At 108 degrees, the dog’s body begins to shut down. His or her major organs begin to break down on a cellular level and continue to do so at an alarming rate. Even immediate care can leave the dog with permanent internal damage.
- Get the dog out of the car and sun. Give the dog water but don't let him drink too much.
- Cool him with cool/tepid water - either immerse him in a bath, gently hose him or apply cool towels to his body.
- Importantly do not leave wet towels on your dog and do not use very cold water -
- both prevent your dog form being able to cool himself.
- Move your dog to an area where there is cool air circulating, such as an air conditioned room or stand him in front of a fan. The cool circulating air will help your dog to reduce his temperature.
- Keep monitoring your dog's temperature with a rectal thermometer; once it returns to normal stop the cooling process.
- While you are cooling your dog down call your local emergency dog clinic, explain the situation and perform any additional treatment they suggest before taking him to the clinic.
- Even if you manage to reduce your dog's temperature at home, take him to your vet for a thorough checkup - internal damage to your dog's organs might have taken place even though he recovered from heat stroke.
No matter how many warnings go up every year, every year there are so many people who think that they will only be 10 minutes. Why take your dog? If you're only going to be gone 10 minutes.....
................................LEAVE THE DOG AT HOME!!!!
Editor's note: Mechelle Crites is a Sacramento County Animal Control Officer.