Tag Archives: heat

Some states step up to prevent dog deaths in hot cars

It's dangerous to leave a dog in an unattended car. On an 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car to heat up to 99 degrees.

It’s dangerous to leave a dog in an unattended car.
On an 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car
to heat up to 99 degrees.

Hundreds of dogs each year perish from searing heat in unattended cars, left there by individuals who don’t understand what a risk to the animal’s life it is.  With the car windows rolled up, even on a comfortable day, temperatures can spike in a flash and a life-threatening situation can develop.  On an 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the car to heat up to 99 degrees.  It doesn’t help much to roll down the windows, and animals don’t have sweat glands to release some of that heat.

Compelled to act by substantial numbers of animal fatalities, more than 20 states and many municipalities have made it a crime to leave an animal in a hot car as part of their anti-cruelty laws.   Now, a growing number of states are fortifying their laws by allowing good Samaritans to enter vehicles to remove animals under certain circumstances.

In 2015, Tennessee made history by passing the first such law of its kind in the nation, and since then the states of Florida and Wisconsin have come on board.  A similar bill has just landed on the Ohio governor’s desk, Michigan is considering a bill allowing the rescue of dogs from hot cars, and there is a bill in California that is moving ahead with strong bipartisan support.  Virginia just passed a new law in 2016 giving civil immunity to first responders.

On Humane Lobby Day in California, supporters rally for HB 797, a bill that would allow good samaritans to enter a car to save an animal from extreme heat.

On Humane Lobby Day in California, supporters rally for HB 797, a bill that would allow good Samaritans to enter a car to save an animal from extreme heat.

Many states have good Samaritan bills addressing the dangerous problem of children left in hot cars, and we’re now catching up to make sure that pets don’t face that same threat.  Intervention is carefully defined and kept as a last resort, only to be used when all other options have been exhausted and the animal is in visible distress.  The bills also spell out what is to be done after an animal has been removed to ensure that emergency care is provided and that pets are returned to their owners appropriately.

Most people are aware of the problem, but often don’t realize that it only takes a few minutes for temperatures to mount and a dangerous situation to develop.  Putting animals at risk of an agonizing and unnecessary death in a hot car is a problem we can all agree to prevent.

Pledge to never leave your dog in a hot car »



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Would You Break Into Someone’s Car to Save a Dog?

Every year thousands of dogs fall victim to extreme temperatures when left in a car by their owners, and many of these poor dogs die of heatstroke. Despite numerous animal welfare campaigns, irresponsible owners still lock their dogs in hot cars, endangering their lives.

If you saw a dog in a hot car, would you break the window to save its life?

Research has shown that in just 10 minutes, the inside temperature of a car can soar to 160 degrees or more on a 90 degree day, and up to 140 degrees even on a milder 72 degree day, temperatures that no animal should have to endure.  Dogs are not well equipped to cope with this type of extreme heat, and can die in less than 15 minutes.

What Does the Law Say About Dogs Trapped in Hot Cars?

Across the U.S., there are numerous different laws and bylaws concerning the issue of leaving animals in vehicles, with some states providing legal protection for the animals and others not.

On July 1, 2015 Tennessee announced a new law which allows people to break into a car in order to save the life of an animal.  The law is an amendment of the pre-existing ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation which now states that a person “shall be immune from civil liability for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a minor or an animal from the vehicle.”  This is great news for the pets of Tennessee, but what about elsewhere in the country?

According to Michigan State University research, only 16 states actually provide any specific legal protection for animals being confined in vehicles, with none of the others making any reference to these conditions.  That means that in the vast majority of the U.S., pet owners are not legally prevented from leaving their pets locked up in a car on a hot day.

As always though, there are other laws which can provide protection for pets, but these are much less clearly defined, making them less effective in alerting people to the dangers, or preventing them from endangering their pets’ lives.  The majority of animal cruelty laws would consider that if an animal was purposefully trapped inside a car in extreme life threatening conditions, that this would necessitate animal cruelty.  Cases such as Lopez v. The State of Texas are examples of when wider animal cruelty charges have been used to prosecute people for leaving a dog in a hot car.

Should We Have to Break the Law to Save a Life? 

Despite the fact that there are 16 states which specifically protect dogs from being confined to vehicles in extreme conditions, and that the majority of animal cruelty laws, by default, would protect against this kind of treatment, the Tennessee law appears to be the first of its kind to actually protect a passerby from being prosecuted for stepping in to save an animal from this death trap.

Surely as caring, considerate and compassionate citizens, we shouldn’t have to break the law in order to save the life of a dying animal trapped inside someone’s vehicle?  There is a lot of advice out there from animal rights groups on what to do if you see a dog trapped inside a hot car, but much of it seems totally unrealistic if the timescale for the dog’s life is limited to just a few minutes.

To keep the advice in accordance with the law, they suggest things like looking around the area for the car owner, notifying the store if the car is in their car park, then notifying the authorities if that doesn’t work, but by the time a resolution is found or the authorities show up, it might be too late for the poor animal trapped inside the vehicle.

It’s time that all laws were brought into line with Tennessee’s ‘Good Samaritan’ law so that passersby have the legal backing to step in and save a life without fear of being prosecuted for criminal damage.

Source: Would You Break Into Someone’s Car to Save a Dog?

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Heat Stroke Awareness

Beat the Heat

Heat stroke can be a life-threatening condition for anyone, dogs included.   Since dogs at play do not comprehend “overdoing it”, it is our job as responsible pet owners to supervise them while enjoying Texas’ outdoor high temperatures.

Heat stroke occurs when the body is incapable of keeping its temperature in a safe range.  Unlike humans who can sweat, animal can’t sweat and can get overheated quickly and easily.  A dog’s normal body temperature is higher than humans’ at 100.0-102.5’F.  A dog with moderate heat stroke and a temperature of 104-106’F can recover within an hour if given proper first aid and veterinary care.  Severe heat stroke occurs when the body temperature rises greater than 106’F and can be deadly, causing kidney, liver and heart problems.  Body temperatures can climb up to 109’F and since brain damage can occur at temperatures above 106’F, it is important to recognize the signs of heat stroke as quickly as possible and seek immediate veterinary attention.

Signs of heat stroke:
– Rapid breathing/panting
– Bright red tongue and gums
– Thick, sticky saliva
– Depression
– Weakness, Dizziness
– Vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood
– Shock, rapid heart rate; low blood pressure; poor pulse quality
– Seizures or coma

Dog Risk Factors
Dogs are at increased risk of heat stroke if they are very young, very old, obese, not conditioned for exercise, not used to being outdoors for long periods of time, or if they have heart, respiratory or certain neurological diseases.  Brachycephalic refers to dogs with “smooshed in faces”.  Some examples of brachycephalic breeds are: Bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Lhasa apsos, Pekingese, Pugs and Shih tzus, etc.  Dogs with longer snouts and throats are able to pass air over their tongues via panting which is an important factor in cooling.  It takes so much extra work to move the same amount of air in a “smooshed in face” dog that airways become inflamed and swollen.  This further exacerbates the upper airway obstruction and leads to more respiratory distress and over-heating.  Under normal circumstances these dogs can breathe without any difficulty.  It is important to know what the “normal” snorting and breathing noises are for your short-faced dog so that you can recognize when they are struggling with breathing.  Dogs that have experienced heat stroke in the past are at increased risk for recurrence.  Finally, dogs on certain medications, like diuretics (ex. furosemide) are prime heat stroke candidates.

Environmental Risk Factors
– High temperatures
– High relative humidity, even at lower temperatures
– Lack of shade and water
– Poor or lack of ventilation

Seeking veterinary attention quickly is critical as heat stroke can be fatal.  The main goal of treatment is to reduce the body temperature to a more appropriate level but to avoid over-cooling.
– Move into the shade or A/C and place a fan on your dog
– Take a rectal temperature if possible
– DO NOT immerse your dog in ice water or cold water as doing so will drop the temperature too quickly.  A reasonable goal of reducing the temperature to 102.5-103’F is ideal.
– Place cool, water-soaked towels over your dog’s body
– Make fresh, cool water available for drinking but DO NOT force your dog to drink.
– Transport your dog to the nearest veterinary clinic where IV fluids will be given to hydrate and stabilize your dog.  Frequent temperature checks will be done to assure that the body temperature does not fall below normal

Prevention is the key to avoiding heat stroke in your beloved pet.  Provide access to fresh, clean water at all times.  Avoid intense outdoor exercise during the hottest part of the day and avoid walking on surfaces such as asphalt and sand where heat is reflected and there is little or no shade available.
(This is also important to follow for preventing the pads on your dog’s feet from becoming burned).  Finally, NEVER, NEVER leave any animal in your parked vehicle even if you park under shade and plan to be away for only a few minutes.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that leaving vehicle windows generously cracked open will allow sufficient ventilation or cooling… they WILL NOT.  The temperature inside a parked vehicle can quickly reach 140’F.  Remember, severe heat stroke and brain damage may begin when your dog’s body temperature reaches 106’F.

Colleen Willma, DVM DACVECC


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PETS AND HEAT DON’T MIX – What To Do During Hotspells

People seem to forget that the inside of a car is not the only dangerous place to leave a defenseless animal! Any pet left alone without shade or water is also at risk.

Puppies and kittens, along with adult pets that are older, large, overweight or on medication are at the highest risk of all.  Do you know how to keep your pets safe during a hotspell?

What To Do During Hotspells

  • The normal body temperature for a dog is 101 to 102 degrees.
  • A 3-degree rise can put a dog into a dangerous situation and increase its need for oxygen.
  • At 108 degrees the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and intestinal tracts begin to break down.
  • Don’t leave your dog or cat in a car.
  • Make sure that your pets have plenty of water and shade.
  • If you believe that your pet is overheating bring it into air conditioning. You can immerse it in cool (not cold) water and give it “sips” of water.  If necessary, immediately take your dog to your veterinarian.

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General Summertime Safety Tips For Pets

  • Keep pets away from hot BBQ grills or coals.
  • Store pesticides and fertilizers out of reach of pets.
  • Make sure that pets are not sniffing grass seed into their noses.
  • Dogs that watch you plant bulbs may dig them up. The bulbs can be poisonous.
  • Dogs or cats with white noses or ear tips can sun burn.  If your pet will wear sunscreen, that’s great.   (Most of them will lick it off.)   It’s best to keep them in the shade when the sun is bright.
  • Keep plenty of clean, fresh water around the house and yard.
  • If the pavement or sidewalk is too hot for your feet, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws!  The pads can easily be burned on hot days.  Check pavement temperatures by placing your hand, palm down, on the pavement’s surface, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog.

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