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How Hot Is Too Hot for a Dog in the Car?

The answer may surprise you, so be sure to leave the dogs at home. Check out this Patch experiment to find out why.

If you think you're doing your dog a favor by bringing him or her with you on hot summer days like today, think again.

The inside of the car heats up more quickly than you think, to levels that are dangerous for most dogs.

In a series of experiments over the course of a week, Patch left the car, with a thermometer in it, in various places, in various conditions, to see how quickly the internal temperature rises.

'I just ran into the store to buy one thing'

In the first experiment, Patch left the car with the windows shut, in a grocery store parking lot for an hour. It was 83 degrees outside. Inside the car, it was 108.

'But I parked in the shade'

Second, Patch parked the car in the shade in a parking lot near a particular town-owned building, with the windows cracked. It was 81 degrees outside. In two minutes, the temperature inside the car had jumped to 86 degrees. In 10 minutes, it had climbed to 90 degrees.

'But the windows were cracked open'

Third, Patch parked the car in front of a police station, with the windows cracked. It was 83 degrees and overcast.

After five minutes, the temperature had climbed to 86 degrees.

In 10 minutes, the temperature inside the car was 90 degrees.

In 30 minutes, even with the clouds, and the windows open, the temperature inside the car had hit 100 degrees.

After an hour, the temperature outside had climbed to 94 degrees, and the temperature inside the car was 110.

WHILE DOGS HAVE higher body temperatures than we do, the only way they can release heat is through their mouths and the pads of their paws.

Like people, different dogs can tolerate different levels of heat. Older dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke, as are dogs with short noses (pugs, Pekingeses, etc.), dogs with dark coats, and of course, dogs with thick coats, overweight dogs and dogs in poor general health.

Signs of heat stroke, according to msnbc.com are excessive panting or drooling, very fast breathing, a dark or bright red tongue or gums, staggering, or bloody diarrhea or vomiting.

NORTH HAMPTON DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF Michael Maddocks told Patch a couple of years ago that he recommended making arrangements to leave dogs and other animals at home during hot days, or to take the animals to a facility that provides cooling stations for animals, such as an animal hospital.

"People shouldn't be bringing their animals out in their vehicles and left unattended," said Maddocks. "It takes less than 10 minutes for the inside of a vehicle to raise to dangerous levels for an animal even if the windows are cracked."

Maddocks said his department takes several steps when they find an animal sitting in an unattended vehicle.

He said officers are trained to first try and locate the owner by running the vehicle's license plate, as well as "try and assess" how the animal is doing.

Maddocks said if the officer can't locate the owner and the animal is showing "signs of distress or is lethargic," police are authorized to open the vehicle if it is unlocked or are authorized to use a tool to unlock the vehicle.

The last resort, which Maddocks said rarely happens, is an officer can use force to break a window to open the vehicle. He said this is only done if the animal is clearly in distress and other methods are ineffective.

The punishment for leaving an animal in an unattended car, if it meets the state statute for animal cruelty, is a fine of up to $1,200 and a Class B misdemeanor on the individual's record, said Maddocks.

IF YOU SEE A DOG -- or any animal -- locked in a car in a situation that you think is dangerous, you can seek out the owner of the vehicle and explain why he or she should get the dog home, or you can call North Hampton police at 964-2198, or Hampton police at 929-4444.

THERE ARE ALSO WAYS TO HELP YOU PET STAY COOL AT HOME. 

Many pets enjoy the breeze from a fan. You can put ice in your pet's water. If your dog or cat is at all amenable, you can run a hose over him or her. The evaporating water will help him or her feel cool.

Likewise, a cool, wet cloth wrapped or draped around his or her neck will help. If you have your act together, you can freeze the bandana or cloth and put it on your dog just before you take him out walking.

Most importantly, make sure your dogs and cats have plenty of water!

IF THE POLICE AND PATCH'S EXPERIMENT DON'T HAVE YOU CONVINCED THAT LEAVING AN ANIMAL IN A HOT CAR IS A BAD IDEA, click here to see a guy baking cookies inside his car.

Your poodle probably doesn't want to become a snickerdoodle today, so be smart.

Dr. Marie July 24, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Great article! I just created an infographic to spread awareness about what happens to a dog when they get left in a hot car. Feel free to use it! http://www.askavetquestion.com/doginhotcar.php
DDelskis July 19, 2013 at 10:07 AM
I have approached several guardians of dogs left in vehicles on hot days over the years, and I can tell you firsthand that it is best to contact the police 1st and locate the guardian after you have called the police. It is always best to have law enforcement with you, as some individuals will become irate at the mere thought that you are informing them of unintentionally causing harm to their animal, not all, but some. ***This should be obvious to most, but time and time again "some" people need to be explained to of the many dangerous reasons of leaving infants and young children alone in vehicles any time. Heat can and has killed or harmed several children in the United States. Six in the last two weeks alone.***

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