My dogs hate the car. Trying to take them anywhere is stressful – for them and for me. As soon as Hamish realizes a car ride is on tap, he hides behind the couch. My other dog, Skye, is excited and happy, bouncing around with joy… until we get to the point of actually getting into the car.
But, not all dogs are like this. I often see dogs happily traveling with their owners, heads hanging out the windows or sitting contentedly in a seat. I admit it, I’m jealous. I’d love to have my dogs with me in the car. And, there have been several occasions when as I’ve been driving somewhere, I have actually told my dogs, “Look, that dog likes being in the car.” As if that would magically convince them the car is no longer their enemy.
And while it might not win my dogs over, the fact remains that there are plenty of dogs that like to be with their owners in cars. On any given day, dogs can be seen waiting with varying degrees of patience for their owners to come out of the grocery store, restaurant, church, mall, etc.
With the hot summer months ahead of us (in many areas), I thought I’d take a moment to remind owners of the dangers of leaving dogs in cars on hot days – even with the windows cracked open.
Did you know that your car can reach 102° within 10 minutes when the temperature is 85° outside? Just 10 minutes! After a half-hour? 120°! It doesn’t even have to be that warm for your car to be dangerous for your dog. Even on cooler days, it may be as much as 20 degrees hotter in your car.*
This is a problem for dogs because they don’t sweat the way we humans do. The only way they can rid themselves of excess body heat is by panting and sweating through the pads of their feet. This leaves dogs at risk for hyperthermia (heat stroke) on hot days. Hyperthermia can be deadly because it can disrupt the flow of blood through the body. It can damage the liver, kidneys, cells, muscles and brain. It can also cause diarrhea, blood clotting disorders and other serious complications.
RedRover, a national non-profit animal protection organization, provides a video on its website about the dangers:
For those who are unable to access the video, a woman from RedRover sets up a demonstration using a car in a parking lot. The car is parked in a mall parking lot and the window is cracked open. It is 12:25 p.m. on a 77° day. An animal control officer takes a reading about 10 minutes into the demonstration (roughly 23 seconds into the video clip) and it is about 98° in the car. After an hour, the temperature outside has climbed to 90°. Inside the car, the reading is now 161°.
Bottom line? Keep your dogs safe this summer – keep them home on warm days.
*Source: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®
Heather B joined Empathia in 2004 and is a Communications Specialist. She has a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Christian Studies through Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.