There appears to be no hard statistics of how many pets, mainly dogs, die in hot cars during the summer months in the USA, but the figure is most likely well into the thousands. That’s sad, but it’s even sadder when you consider that each death due to a pet left alone in a hot car is 100% preventable.
If it’s a hot day outside, let’s say in the 75 to 85 degree range, it will only take a matter of minutes for the temperature inside a car, even with a window cracked open an inch or so and the car standing in the shade, to rapidly rise to 100, or even 120 degrees or more inside. Most pet owners who leave their pets in a car on a hot day only intend to be away for a few minutes, but that can be long enough to cause your pet severe suffering, possibly even death.
Dogs, cats and many other animals don’t sweat in the same way humans do when they overheat. Cats and dogs sweat through their paw pads. They also pant to help release heat from their bodies. This works well in moderate heat, but the rapidly rising heat inside a car on a hot day can quickly overwhelm a pet, leaving them unable to dissipate the excessive heat, and as a result they experience extreme discomfort, pain, and even brain damage. Death in this situation is the result of suffocation or heatstroke.
The easiest way to prevent distress or even the death of your pet is to leave them at home where it is cooler and safer. Your pet may love a car ride, and most do, but you should restrict that treat to cool days, if you intend to leave your pet alone in the car while you run an errand or two.
When the temperature outside is below 60 degrees, and when the risks to your pet are therefore reduced, it’s probably all right to take your pet along for the ride, especially if it’s overcast, but always take precautions and don’t leave your pet alone for too long.
The best advice, if you must take your pet with you in the car on a hot day, is to have someone else along who can stay with the pet to monitor the situation. Of course, the “someone else” you take along should not be a child. Children also die in hot cars; around 36 a year in the USA.
The signs to look out for in a pet that is suffering from excessive heat include glazed eyes, heavy panting, vomiting, a rapid pulse rate and disorientation. If you find an animal, your own pet or someone else’s, displaying any of these signs, try to get them into a cool place like an air conditioned building as quickly as possible. If the condition is severe, find a vet immediately.
Most pet deaths resulting from being left alone too long in a hot car happen simply because their owners don’t appreciate the potential dangers. Most pet owners are loving and caring, but it is important to know what can happen to your pet in a car on a hot day. Leave your pet at home when it’s hot outside. It’s the wise thing to do!