If you think you're doing your dog a favor by bringing it out with you on hot summer days, think again.
The inside of the car heats up more quickly than you might realize--to levels dangerous for most dogs.
In a series of experiments over the course of the week, I left the car, with the thermometer in it, in various places, in various conditions, to see how quickly it would heat up.
'I just ran into the store to buy one thing'
In the first experiment, I left the car with the windows shut, in the grocery store parking lot in for an hour. It was 83 degrees outside. Inside the car, it was 108.
'But I parked in the shade'
Second, I parked in the shade with the windows cracked open. 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.
'But the windows were cracked open'
Third, I parked the car 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.
After an hour, the temperature outside had climbed to 94 degrees, and the temperature inside the car was 110.
Although 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 heatstroke, as are dogs with short noses (pugs, Pekingeses, etc.), dogs with dark coats and, of course, dogs with thick coats. That also goes for dogs that are overweight or in poor general health.
Orange County Animal Care officers won’t hesitate to break a car window if a dog is in distress, said Katie Ingram, the agency’s community outreach supervisor.
“Our first priority is getting into the vehicle and cooling them down,” she said. “Even when it’s in the 80s, the temperature inside the car can be over 100 even with the windows cracked.”
Officers have a laser thermometer to determine the temperature inside a vehicle. If the car is parked in front of a store, animal control officers will try to find the owners and issue a warning. However, if the animal is in distress, officers won’t waste anytime in breaking it free, said Ingram. Officers then take the animal’s temperature to determine if it is suffering heatstroke, and the animal might be rushed to the county veterinarian for emergency care. In rare cases, it’s too late. In these situations, the owner will be cited and can face prosecution for animal cruelty.
“In the hot summer months, we get calls daily about an animal locked in a vehicle. The public is definitely good about paying attention to that,” said Ingram. “It could be once a week or month that we have to physically remove the animal from the car, but that can fluctuate on 100 degree days.”
If you see a dog—or any animal—locked in a car in a situation you think is dangerous, you can ramp up your courage and seek out the owner of the vehicle and explain why he or she should get the dog home, or you can call:
Orange County Animal Care at 714-935-6848
Long Beach Animal Care Services at 562-570-7387
Seal Beach police at 562-799-4100
Los Alamitos Police Department at 562-431-2255
Orange County Sheriff’s Department at (714) 647-7000.
There are ways to help your 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 is at all amenable, you can run a hose over it. The evaporating water will help it feel cool.
- Likewise, a cool, wet cloth wrapped or draped around its neck will help. If you have your act together, you can freeze the bandanna or cloth and put it on your dog just before you take it out walking.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of water!
And, finally, to see a guy baking cookies inside his car, click here.
-- Paige Austin contributed to this report.