Summer Pet Safety: Don’t Leave Your Pets in a Parked Car

Summer, one of the glories of living in the Northwest, is finally here bringing warmer days and sunny skies. Because we’re used to moderate summers in this part of the country, we don’t think as much about the dangers summer heat can present to our pets. We tend to forget that most of our pets come supplied with a fur coat and can’t sweat to lower their body heat. They rely on panting as the primary way to cool off, so they are much more vulnerable to hot weather than we are.

Small dog locked in a parked car with the windows closed

Never leave your pet alone in a parked car

Never leave your pet alone in a parked car. Even on a moderate summer day, the sun can turn your car into an oven very quickly (see below). On a mild 70° day the temperature inside a car parked in the shade – even with the window “cracked”- can reach 89° in a few minutes; in direct sunlight it can reach more than 100°. Imagine being locked in a car wearing a fur coat in that kind of heat.  Passersby can escalate overheating if your dog gets excited or panicky as strangers go by. Different pets have different tolerances. Pets with short muzzles, like Boxers, Pugs or Persian cats are much more vulnerable. They can’t pant effectively and have a much harder time cooling off than pets with longer muzzles. Older pets and pet who are overweight are also at greater risk. But no pet can tolerate 100°+ temperatures for very long.

Temperatures in a Car Parked in the Shade
Outside Air Temperature
Inside Temp. After 10 Minutes
Inside Temp. After 30 Minutes


Pets left in a hot car will not just suffer, they can fall victim to heat stroke resulting in permanent organ damage and death. Early signs of heat stroke are difficulty breathing with heavy, rapid panting. Tongue and gums become bright red and the pet may drool thick, ropy saliva. They may vomit and will become increasingly sluggish and unsteady. As the body temperature continues to rise, shock sets in, the gums and mucus membranes turn gray, followed by seizures and death. This is a pretty gruesome scenario, but thousands of pets –mostly dogs- die this way every year. Their owners aren’t necessarily monsters; they were only popping into the bank for a minute, or they cracked the windows and figured that would be ok, or they just didn’t think it was all that hot. The danger isn’t worth the risk; play it safe and leave your pets at home in hot weather.

Are These Pet Poisons Hiding In Your Home?

Most of us know that household items like chocolate and antifreeze are toxic to pets, but hidden in our homes are a surprising number of other products that can be just as dangerous. Here are three you might never have suspected.

Fabric Softener Sheets
Online, you can find a pet care tip that advises wiping a dog or cat’s coat with fabric softener sheets to remove loose hair and dander. This is a terrible idKeep Pets safeea; dryer sheets contain toxic chemicals including chloroform, benzyl acetate, and detergents known as cationics which can cause dangerous gastrointestinal irritations.
These chemicals are dangerous to all pets, but cats are particularly vulnerable. Rubbed on a cat’s coat, these toxins will be ingested when the cat grooms herself and can cause chemical burns in the mouth, drooling, systemic distress, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), kidney failure and intestinal ulceration. Dogs are vulnerable as well. Contact with dryer sheets, can cause chemical reactions on the dog’s skin that can include redness and itching, swelling, hives and rash. Asthmatic or allergic dogs may inhale the chemical fumes and suffer potentially deadly allergic reactions.
The packaging for dryer sheets includes a warning to keep them away from children and pets. That’s definitely good advice. Treat these products as the pet poisons they are. Store dryer sheets where pets can’t get at them and when you take your laundry out of the dryer, take a moment to find and remove the dryer sheet and dispose of it safely.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute used as a sweetener in sugarless gum, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, mouthwash, and a variety of other sugar-free products. While it is harmless to humans, and National Animal Poison Control has no reports of xylitol toxicity in cats, it can be deadly for dogs. Xylitol triggers a release of insulin that results in a severe drop in blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) and can lead to liver failure. Shortly after ingesting, a dog may begin vomiting followed by lethargy, difficulty walking, and lack of coordination. Unless addressed quickly, collapse and seizures may follow. If your dog shows any of these symptoms or you suspect your dog may have ingested xylitol, it’s important to contact your vet immediately.

Raisins and Grapes
For humans, raisins are considered a healthy snack, and it’s hard to accept the fact that they could be toxic to dogs. None the less, this popular food found in almost any home’s pantry can be deadly for dogs. This includes raisins, currants, fresh grapes and as well as any food containing them such as trail mix, grape juice, and baked goods. The mechanisms that make raisins toxic to dogs are not clear, but there is no doubt that ingesting these products can result in kidney failure and possibly death. Early symptoms will include vomiting followed by diarrhea, lethargy, and increased thirst. Oddly, the toxicity isn’t necessarily dose specific. There are cases where dogs have eaten a large quantity of raisins with only moderate symptoms, and others where as few as seven raisins resulted in severe kidney failure. The unpredictable toxicity levels can lull dog owners into complacency. If your pooch has scarfed a raisin or two in the past without without harm, don’t assume he’s immune, he’s just been lucky. The consequences the next time could be very different.

At Bellevue Pet Sitters, we care about the health and safety of your pet, and we have great resources to help you know how to keep your pets safe. If you have any questions about keeping your pets safe from poisons, or if you’d like a comprehensive list of poisonous products that you might have in your home, let us know, we’ll be glad to refer you to the best resources. To help keep your pets safe, we recommend you create a First Aid & Pet Poison Safety Kit in case of emergencies. For a full list of what that should include, just email