Leaving Dogs in Cars
Dogs should never be left alone in a car. Not even for five minutes no matter if the windows are cracked open or not. First, the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rise dramatically in a matter of minutes. Second, there is virtually no difference in the temperature between a vehicle with slightly open and that with closed windows. And third, “just a minute” is never really just a minute.
The Facts and Figures
Every year, hundreds of dogs die because their owners were unaware or ignored the danger of the rapidly rising temperature inside a parked vehicle. Multiple studies measured the rate of the temperature rise inside parked cars and all found the temperature to rise to 80% of its maximum within the first 30 minutes. Researchers also compared the difference between cars with slightly open and closed windows and found it to be negligible. Likewise, they found no significant difference in the temperature rise between cars parked in the sun and those parked in the shade.
The rate of the temperature rise and the final temperature depend greatly on ambient temperature but it doesn’t have to be hot for the temperature inside the vehicle to become life threatening. It takes just a few minutes for the internal temperature to rise to 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit even at a relatively cool ambient temperature (72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit). During hot, sunny days (88 degrees Fahrenheit and more), parked cars heat up even more and faster, reaching up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes.
Dogs Even More Vulnerable to Heatstroke than Children
Dogs are especially vulnerable to the effects of heat because they cool off by sweating through their paws where they have sweat glands and by panting. Neither, however, has much effect at a temperature of 150 and rising. As a result, heatstroke in dogs develops and progresses very rapidly, causing potentially life-threatening complications in as little as 15 minutes, especially if ambient temperature is high.
It isn’t just the heat that puts dogs in unattended vehicles in danger. There are many reports of pets being stolen from cars or together with the vehicles. Also, leaving dogs in cars is just as dangerous in cold weather as in summer heat. Extremely low temperatures put your dog at risk of hypothermia which is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not receiving prompt treatment. Dogs should therefore never, under any circumstances be left alone in a car, not only for a few minutes. Instead, take your pet with you or better yet, leave him at home with a friend or pet sitter if you have errands to run.
What to Do if You See a Dog Left Alone in a Car?
If you see a dog left alone in a car, don’t assume that his owner will be right back. The majority of pet deaths in unattended vehicles are unintentional; their owners were either unaware of the danger they were putting their pets in or lost track of time while running errands. If you see a dog alone in a car, write down the color, model and license plate number, and ask for the vehicle’s owner at the nearby businesses. If the owner cannot be found in a matter of five minutes or if the animal is showing signs of distress, call animal control or the police and follow their instructions.