Phew! It’s hot outside! While humans sweat to cool off, a pet’s fur prevents sweating, thereby trapping heat which causes a rapid rise in internal temperature. Heatstroke can occur when a pet’s internal temperature rises just a few degrees, and can cause serious problems and/or death. While we have heard not to leave pets in a car on a hot day, there are several other situations which can cause heatstroke in any kind of pet. Do you know the signs and symptoms, as well as some emergency first aid to help if heatstroke occurs?
Your pet relies on YOU!
Keep them safe in the heat of summer!
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.
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.
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.
by Jessica PeraltaYou’re walking along with your 80-pound, long-haired shepherd one warm, sunny afternoon. You’re breaking a bit of a sweat, but you feel just fine in your shorts and tank. But then you look over at Thor, and he’s not looking too good … his eyes are glazed, he’s panting heavily and he’s starting to pull back on the leash.
“But, it’s not that hot,” you say to yourself. “What is up with Thor?”
Thor is probably on his way to having heatstroke, which means he is quickly losing his ability to regulate his body temperature because of an overabundance of heat. Dogs don’t sweat the way we do – they only have sweat glands in their nose and pads of their feet. And their only real recourse when they are overheating is to pant, which sometimes isn’t enough. Add to that the fact that their bodies are covered in fur and their paws are usually in direct contact with hot concrete or asphalt … and well, it’s easy to see how they can get much hotter than we can – fast.
And since heatstroke can quickly lead to irreversible damage to major organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, brain – and can even cause death – it’s important to know the signs.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Heatstroke?
Normally, a dog’s body temperature is somewhere between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly higher than for humans. A dog will start to experience heatstroke at over 105 degrees. At around 106 to 108 degrees, organ damage can occur. Always keep a rectal thermometer handy for your dog and check his temperature if you suspect heatstroke.
If the overheating isn’t stopped, your dog’s breathing will slow or stop, and he can have seizures or fall into a coma. Obviously, we don’t want any of that to happen. So, what should you do if you think your dog has heatstroke?
My Dog Has Heatstroke, What Do I Do?
Whenever the weather gets warms, it’s a good idea to pay special attention to how your dog is doing. And know your dog: Breeds with “flat faces” like Pugs and Boxers, elderly dogs, puppies and sick dogs are at even greater risk of overheating. Things progress quickly when it comes to heatstroke, so as soon as you detect a problem, act quickly.
Get him into shade.
Since heat is the obvious problem, the goal is to get him out of it and away from direct sunlight.
Apply cool water.
Get water on his inner thighs and stomach where there are more large blood vessels, and on the pads of his feet. Use running water via faucet or hose and avoid submerging your dog in a tub or pool because this could cool him too fast and cause other problems like cardiac arrest and bloat. Also, avoid cold water or ice because these will cause the blood vessels to constrict, slowing blood flow and the cooling process.
Air him out.
To help cool your dog, you want to make sure the water you’re putting on him can evaporate. To that end, you’ll want to avoid covering him up with a wet towel or blanket because rather than allowing the water to evaporate, this will create a sauna effect – which you don’t want. Keep him out of enclosed areas like a kennel; instead, keep him near flowing air like from a fan or air conditioner.
Keep him moving.
Encourage your dog to stand or walk slowly while he’s cooling down, so that his cooled blood can circulate throughout his body.
Give him small amounts of cool – not cold – water.
If he gulps down too much water too fast, it can cause vomiting or bloating.
Give him some chicken or beef broth
…if he doesn’t want water, but avoid human performance drinks.
Get him to the vet.
Once your dog has started to cool down, you can stop your efforts and take him to his vet right away. You don’t want to continue trying to cool down your dog for too long or you’ll risk him getting hypothermia. Your dog will need a veterinary exam even if he seems fine because there may be underlying damage to his organs that you can’t see. Even if he seems normal, the effects of heatstroke can continue for 48 to 72 hours following the initial heatstroke. According to William Grant DVM, the most common cause of death following heatstroke is disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC) which is blood coagulating throughout the body; it can occur hours or days after the heatstroke episode.
3 Homeopathic Remedies for an Overheated Dog
In addition to cooling down your overheated dog and taking him to the vet, consider giving him one of these homeopathic remedies to help in his recovery.
Aconitum napellus 6C to 30C This is a good first choice at first sign of heatstroke. If your dog needs this remedy, he may also seem very fearful or anxious. Give three pellets every 10 minutes for up to three doses. If he doesn’t seem better, try one of the other remedies listed.
Gelsemium 30C If the dog needs this remedy, he may seem very weak and his muscles may be trembling. Give three pellets every 10 minutes for up to three doses. If the dog is not any better, try the next remedy.
Glonoinum 6C to 30C You may see vomiting and weakness. His gums may be pale, red or have a bluish cast. Give three pellets every 5 minutes.
Tuffy, a scruffy and adorably sweet little terrier arrived at my hospital in a state of collapse with profoundly labored breathing, purplish gums, and a temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit (the normal body temperature for a dog is 100-102 degrees). Tuffy’s well-intentioned family let him accompany them on a brief outing and, while they were in the store for a mere ten minutes, Tuffy remained in the car. The outdoor temperature at the time was 82 degrees, and the temperature within the car quickly soared to well above 100 degrees. Tuffy is one of the lucky ones. He survived his episode of heatstroke without any lingering complications and has gone home to rejoin his grateful (and more knowledgeable) family. Most patients with heatstroke don’t fare nearly so well. I invite you to share Tuffy’s story with others with hopes of preventing a needless tragedy.
Dog Days of Summer
Some of us take “dog days of summer” literally – we want to go everywhere accompanied by our beloved canine companions! As tempting as this may be, keep in mind that when temperatures are soaring your dog’s well being is best served by staying home. Heat has the potential to be hazardous to your dog’s health.
Dogs are incapable of significant sweating – their only sweat glands are located on the undersides of their paws. The major mechanism by which dogs dissipate heat is by panting, but this cooling system is easily overwhelmed when the temperature climbs. Panting becomes even less effective in humid conditions or for dogs with underlying respiratory tract ailments (collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, lung diseases). Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and others I lovingly refer to as “smoosh-faced” breeds readily overheat because of their unique upper respiratory tract anatomy.
What happens when dogs get too hot? The result is heatstroke, a life threatening condition. Symptoms of heatstroke tend to occur abruptly and can include increased heart rate, labored breathing, weakness, collapse, purplish gum color, and even seizures and coma. Of all the “summertime diseases” veterinarians dread heatstroke the most because we know that, even with aggressive therapy, many heatstroke victims will succumb to organ damage and death.
Most cases of canine heatstroke are a result of confinement in cars. Perhaps the vehicle was parked in the shade, but the sun shifted, or a well-intentioned person thought that leaving the windows cracked or returning to the car quickly would be a safe bet. Overactivity in the heat is another common cause of heatstroke. For some dogs the desire to chase the ball trumps all else, and the person throwing the ball doesn’t recognize when it’s time to quit.
If you suspect your dog has or is on the verge of heatstroke, spend just a few minutes cooling him off with cool, not cold, water from a hose or covering him with towels soaked in cool water. Then get to the closest veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence – the earlier heatstroke is treated, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing heatstroke. Here are some pointers to help keep your best buddy safe during the hot summer months:
– Never leave your dog inside the car on warm or hot days. A panting dog in an enclosed space quickly creates a muggy greenhouse environment that can quickly cause heatstroke. Even with the windows down, temperatures inside a car can rise to 120 degrees or more. If you happen upon a dog confined in a car on a hot day, find the owner of the vehicle or contact a police officer – whichever will most rapidly liberate the dog from danger. If the dog is clearly in trouble and help is not quickly forthcoming, it is appropriate to break a car window.
– Exercise your dog early in the morning or during evening hours to avoid the heat of the day.
– Allow for plenty of rest and water breaks during play activity and exercise. Your dog may not know his limits and will continue to enthusiastically chase the Frisbee even when his internal thermometer is getting ready to blow a fuse.
– Keep your dog indoors, ideally in air conditioning, on very hot days.
– If your dog is left outside, be sure he has plenty of shade and provide him with access to a sprinkler, wading pool, or sand pit soaked with water.
– If it’s necessary to transport your dog by airplane during the summer months, schedule your flight for nighttime or early morning. Check with the airlines to find out whether or not the cargo hold is temperature controlled.
Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health,
Dr. Nancy Kay
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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
– 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.
K-9 Angels Rescue wants to strongly warn the public against leaving dogs in hot cars. Even leaving a dog in a car for 10 minutes can result in severe dehydration and baking, followed by death.
Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs: On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes.
Animals can sustain brain damage, even die, from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. No dog should ever be left in a car. Like a child should also never be left in a car. Remember they are always wearing a coat and are unable to sweat like a human. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and, for some, by sweating through their paw pads.
If you see a dog left alone in a hot car, take down the car’s color, model, make, and licence plate number. Have the owner paged in the nearest buildings, or call local humane authorities or police. Have someone keep an eye on the dog. Don’t leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
If the authorities are unresponsive or too slow and the dog’s life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back up your assessment, take steps to remove the suffering animal from the car, and then wait for authorities to arrive.
Watch for heatstroke symptoms such as restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination. If a dog shows any of these symptoms, get him or her out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned vehicle, and then to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to transport the dog yourself, take him or her into an air-conditioned environment if possible and call animal control: Tell them it is an emergency.
Provide water to drink, and if possible spray the dog with a garden hose or immerse him or her in a tub of cool (but not iced) water for up to two minutes in order to lower the body temperature gradually. You can also place the dog in front of an electric fan. Applying cool, wet towels to the groin area, stomach, chest, and paws can also help. Be careful not to use ice or cold water, and don’t over-cool the animal.
Do not take your dog out with you if you need to leave it in a car for more than 1-2 mins MAX. Always park your car in full, cool shade with the sun roof wide open and all windows open by a few inches.
Next time you have trouble relating to this, put a huge heavy coat on and lock yourself in your green house for 20 minutes on a hot summer’s day. Better yet, sit in your car with engine off and windows closed for 20 minutes on a hot day. This is how your dog feels.
DO NOT LEAVE DOGS IN HOT CARS
( Thank you to PETA for some of the information
used in the wording of this campaign )