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.
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.
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.