We’ve all been nauseated by the horror stories on the news of animals being left to die in parked cars on hot days. Thankfully, many are trying to educate the public of the dangers of leaving your dog/child/living being in a hot vehicle. One of my personal favorites is the YouTube video of veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, who climbs into a parked car on a 94 degree day and records the temperature (and his suffering!) for 30 minutes. But what can you do in that moment if you see a dog locked in a car on a hot day?
Be proactive, speak up! Write down the license plate and make of the vehicle, and description of the pet. Start asking around the immediate area if anyone knows who the dog and/or vehicle may belong to. If it’s parked in the lot of an establishment, immediately go inside and ask to speak with a manager. They can alert patrons, perhaps over a loud speaker, and hopefully the owner will respond promptly. They can also phone the appropriate authorities if needed.
Call your local animal control and/or the police. Program the number in your smart phone, so you have it without hesitation at times like this! In Milwaukee County, this would be Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Center (MADACC) who can dispatch an animal control officer to the site of the vehicle. If you dial 9-1-1, the police should respond as well — they always have whenever I’ve called!
Educate yourself about heat stroke in dogs. Know that it only takes minutes for the inside of a locked car to jump 20 degrees, even with the windows cracked. Recognize common symptoms of heat stroke, so you can estimate how severe of trouble the dog may be in. Symptoms begin with increased heart rate and excessive panting accompanied with thickened saliva. The mucous membranes will soon turn bright red, so learn to check the dog’s gums, ear pinna/cartilage, and the sclera/whites of the eye for color changes. Then the dog will often vomit, and have bloody diarrhea, followed by the onset of shock, weakness, collapse, seizures, coma, and death.
Though all dogs suffer from being left in a parked car, certain types of dogs have a greater risk of fatality than others, and the minutes may matter even more. Elderly dogs and puppies are less likely to survive being left in a parked car, along with dogs that have existing heart or lung disease. Brachycephalic breeds, or the mushy-nosed dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs, overheat quicker than other breeds, due to their restricted airways. Obviously, longer-coated dogs are at higher risk too, much like if you were wearing a jacket while left in a hot vehicle. As a behaviorist, I imagine dogs with anxiety are high on the list of fatalities as well. Considering how much energy the body consumes to be anxious (ie: panting, pacing, whining or barking, hyper-salivating, increased heart rate, etc), the dog’s body resources become depleted sooner, implying they would parish faster than non-anxious dogs.
As it could be unsafe to you and the animal inside, I cannot advocate that you break a window of the car. However, I understand there are times this action may be required in life or death situations. Thankfully it’s never come to this yet, but I personally would take on the responsibility to break a car window if I noticed the onset of vomiting or diarrhea (some of the first signs a dog is spiraling into heat stroke), or any worse symptoms from the animal inside.
Educate others! Help get the word out to the general public to STOP leaving their pets in parked cars this summer! Blast your social media, make flyers to hand out, do something! Sadly, this common sense is not that common…
Cool down and spread this hot topic: DO NOT leave your dogs in parked cars this summer!