Leaving Your Pet in a Hot Car is Not Cool

Summer heat can rapidly turn a parked vehicle into an oven. It’s no place to leave a pet, even for a few minutes.

Dr. Beth Parvin, a consultant with the California Veterinary Medical Board, warns that heat stroke in pets is a medical emergency that can quickly turn deadly. She advises that even after pets are removed from the heat, animals suffering from heat stroke still need immediate veterinary medical attention to avoid complications.

Parvin says leaving pets alone in a vehicle, even with the windows cracked, is the most frequent cause of heat stroke. Temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly soar to more than 125 degrees. Besides being dangerous for your animal, it’s also illegal in California to leave a pet in a vehicle under unsafe conditions.

Warning Signs of Heat Stroke:

  • Excessive panting, salivating, or discomfort.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate.
  • Drooling.
  • Mild weakness.
  • Disorientation.
  • Stupor.
  • Collapse.
  • Seizures.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Elevated body temperature more than 103 degrees.
  • Coma.
  • Death.

If heat stroke is suspected, try to cool your pet off immediately and then get your pet to a veterinarian.

Home Treatment of Heat Stroke:

  • Move pet to a cool, shady area.
  • Avoid ice or very cold water.
  • Cool pet by spraying with or immersing in cool—not cold—water or wrap pet in wet towels.
  • Wet earflaps and paws with cool water.
  • Allow, but don’t force, the pet to drink cool water.

Veterinarians will treat not just the heat stroke, but also check for complications. They will:

  • Lower the animal’s body temperature to a safe range.
  • Continually monitor pet’s temperature.
  • Give fluids, oxygen, and medication as needed.
  • Monitor for shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart abnormalities, and other complications.
  • Take blood samples before and during the treatment to check the clotting time of the blood, since clotting problems are a common complication.

Seek immediate veterinary medical attention to ensure your pet’s temperature returns to and stays at normal and to ensure there are no complications. Be sure you don’t lower your pet’s temperature too much as this, too, can cause complications.

With proper care and planning, heat stroke in pets is preventable.

The Humane Society of the United States says that brachycephalic (short-nosed) animals such as pugs, bull dogs, or Persian cats, and pets with long hair are the most vulnerable to heat stroke as are dogs and cats that are young, elderly, overweight or those with heart or lung diseases.

Providing outside pets with access to plenty of shade and cool water is critical to their safety during hot weather.

To avoid heat stroke, be sure to limit your pet’s exercise to early mornings or cooler evenings and avoid hot pavement or gravel that can burn tender paws. Also, don’t muzzle your dog during hot weather because panting allows them to cool off.

To check that a veterinarian is licensed in California, use DCA’s license search page.

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