Dog Days of Summer Can Be Deadly for Pets

Dogs don't fare well when left in hot carsDogs don't fare well when left in hot carsYou may enjoy taking your canine companion for a ride during the dog days of summer, but experts advise pet owners not to leave dogs, cats or any other pets unattended in a hot car.

On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the Animal Protection Institute. In 30 minutes the interior can reach up to 120 degrees.

Such temperatures can be deadly for dogs, which can't sweat like humans do. Dogs can cool down only by panting and drooling, meaning it's easier for them to suffer from heat exhaustion. Signs of heat exhaustion in dogs include excessive panting or drooling, trouble breathing, agitation, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of consciousness.

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But hot cars aren't the only places that put pets at risk. Even being outdoors on a warm day can be deadly, as evidenced by the death of Louisiana Tech's mascot, Tech XX, who died of heat stroke last summer. An employee at Sexton Animal Health Center in Ruston, La., let the bulldog outside and left him there on a day when temperatures reached 102 degrees. Bulldogs are especially susceptible to heat stroke - even in 75-80-degree weather - because of their shorter snouts, according to bulldogsworld.com.

A healthy canine's temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees, but if a dog's temperature reaches 109, the animal might not be able to recover. Even if the dog survives, there can be brain swelling.

Several organizations have been trying to get the word out about the dangers of leaving dogs unattended in cars. Model Elisabetta Canalis teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to make a video where she plays a dog locked in a car on a summer day. Sweating and desperate to get out of the vehicle, Canalis bangs on the windows and eventually passes out.

Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., spent 30 minutes in a hot car to demonstrate how dangerous it is to leave your pet unattended. By the end of the experiment, the car had reached 117 degrees even with all the windows open 2 inches.

What should you do if you see an animal trapped in a car on a hot day?

Minutes count, so alert someone immediately. If you know the owner, tell them their pet is in danger. You can also keep some "Don't Leave Me Here - It's Hot!" fliers on hand to help spread the word. If the animal is alone in a parking lot, alert a store manager to locate the animal's owner.

You can also call your local animal control office or the police for assistance. According to Myrtle Beach Animal Control Officer Steven Trott, animals locked inside vehicles account for 25 percent of all animal cruelty service calls.

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