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The Dog Days of Summer
By Kathy Schnizler

If the weather this spring is any indication, we are in for a wickedly hot summer. It seems that now would be a good time to remind everyone of the dangers of leaving your pet inside a parked car. Common sense tells us that this is a bad idea, but each year pets die from heatstroke after being left inside a parked car.

There are many owners who love to take their dogs with them wherever they go. This is great except that dogs are not always allowed inside the buildings where the owner is visiting or running errands. In warmer weather, it is safer to leave your dog at home to guard the couch than to leave him inside a parked car, even if you think you will only be gone a few minutes. Dogs are built to be heat retentive. Their sweat glands are on their noses and the pads of their feet and do not allow the dog to cool off efficiently. Panting and drinking water can cool a dog down, but if the air they are breathing is heated, panting will not be effective. This is especially true for short nosed dogs such as pugs or boxers, their short muzzles inhibit their ability to pant.

Cats generally do not enjoy a ride in a car and are normally only in the car to visit the veterinarian and are not left alone. However because cats are usually confined in a carrier for the ride they can have a harder time trying to cool off in such a confined space. They can also go unnoticed by people passing by if they are left in a carrier inside a parked car. A cat left inside a parked car even for a few minutes can be overcome by heatstroke. If you need to run an errand after visiting the veterinarian with your cat, it is best to take your cat home first, then go out and get him that new catnip toy he's been wanting.

What people don't realize is how rapidly a car can heat up on a sunny day. For instance, if it is 85 degrees outside, the inside temperature of a car can reach 102 degrees within the first 10 minutes and 120 degrees within the first 30 minutes. If it hot and humid outside, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can go up 30 degrees per minute, quickly becoming lethal to pets left inside.

A study done by Stanford University shows that even on cool days, if it is sunny out, the temperature inside a car will rise 40 degrees in an hour with 80 percent of the heating occurring in the first 30 minutes. So if it is 72 degrees outside on a sunny day the temperature inside a parked car will reach 104 degrees in 30 minutes. The study also showed that cracking the windows had an insignificant effect on the rising temperature.

Unlike us, our pets cannot let themselves out of the car when they start getting too hot. If you see an animal left inside a car on a warm sunny day, try to locate the owner. If the animal appears to be in distress get help from local authorities such as the police, mall security, or animal control and ask them to open the car. If you think the animal may be suffering from heatstroke, move the animal to shade or air conditioning and give the animal a small amount of cool water to drink. You can use ice packs on the animal's head, neck, and chest to try and cool her down. Signs of heatstroke include vomiting, lack of coordination, excessive panting, profuse salivation, glazed eyes, restlessness, deeply red or purple tongue, and unconsciousness. The animal should be taken to the nearest veterinarian as quickly as possible.

The saddest thing about cats and dogs dying from being left in a car is that it is so easily preventable. You can help by sharing this information with friends, family, and anyone you know with a pet. Let's all have a cool, carefree summer.