There is no better place to spend your summer then the Pacific Northwest. Though they are nice, they are also hot. So, before you grab your pets and load the family in the car to enjoy the warmer weather, make sure you’re prepared to travel with your furry friends.
Every summer, countless animals suffer from heatstroke from being left in a hot car. Many people believe parking in the shade or cracking the windows will reduce the temperature inside their car. However, studies show they don’t help much.
“While humans cool themselves by relying on an extensive system of sweat glands and evaporation, dogs and other animals have a harder time staying cool and rely on cooling by panting,” said Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Medical Director at the Seattle Humane Society Jessica Reed. “This leaves them extremely vulnerable to heatstroke.”
Reed explained how parked cars can quickly trap the sun’s heat. Even on a day when it’s 70 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car with all the windows closed can hit 90 degrees in just ten minutes. Apparently, even if you crack the windows your pet is still in danger of heatstroke or even death.
“On a hot day, the temperature inside a closed car can shoot as high as 120 degrees in the same amount of time,” said Dr. Reed. She explained that a car parked with its windows cracked and a car parked in the shade both heat up at almost the exact same rate as a car parked with its windows rolled up.
Lindsay Roe, Development Manager for the Everett Animal Shelter described what heatstroke symptoms owners should look for in their pet. Excessive thirst, Lethargy, vomiting, lack of coordination and heavy panting are just a few of the symptoms you should look out for whenever it’s warm outside.
Interesting enough, not all animals are as susceptible to heatstroke as others. Animals with flat faces like Pug dogs or Persian cats are more susceptible to heatstroke since they cannot pant as effectively as others, explained Dr. Reed.
Although people might not think of cats as an animal to travel with, they are just as susceptible to the dangers of heatstroke.
“The precautions about how to avoid heatstroke, while traveling and at home, are the same for cats as they are for dogs,” says Dr. Reed. “So are the symptoms, although cats are a bit better about hiding their illness or discomfort from people than dogs are, so the signs may be more subtle. Unlike dogs, cats do not normally pant, so always view this as a warning that something may be amiss with your kitty.”
There are a few things to do if you ever stumble across an animal locked in a hot car. Take down the car’s color, make, model and license plate number. Also, try and have the owner paged in the nearest buildings. If that doesn’t work, call local police or humane authorities. But most importantly, 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, know that if you decide to act to remove an animal from a vehicle, you may face legal consequences later,” said Dr. Reed. If you choose to take steps to remove a suffering animal from a car, find witnesses who will back up your assessment for authorities.
In several U.S. states, good Samaritans can legally remove animals from cars under particular circumstances. According to the Washington State Legislature, RCW 16.52.340 Only animal control officers and law enforcement officers are not liable for any damage to property resulting from actions taken under this section.
It also states that it is a class 2 civil infraction to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water.
If you are making plans to travel with your pet during this time of year, be sure to travel with plenty of water. If you decide to leave your vehicle, make sure to bring your pet with you. Or, if you’re traveling with multiple people have someone stay behind with the AC on.
Dr. Reed also shared creative ways to keep your animal cool all summer long. Cooling products for your pets such as cooling mats or vests are available in the pet product market, but you can DIY them at your home as well. By simply soaking a bandana in cool water and tying it around your pet’s neck should help keep your furry friend both looking and feeling cool. You can also make your dog delicious “pupsicles”. All you must do is freeze water with dog food and other snacks such as peanut butter, blueberries, peas, or carrots in the freezer and then pop them out for your pet to enjoy while cooling down.
Pets are another member of the family, make sure to treat them like one!