Dogs in Hot Cars
Protecting your Best Friend from the Worst Heat
It's all about dogs this time.
Dogs, dogs, dogs.
Our wonderful four-legged friends who enrich our lives so much by drooling all over us and peeing on the carpet. And, of course, by eating any food (and many things that are not actually food) they can get their mouth on as soon as our backs are turned. Ah, the loyalty…
Come to think of it, I have a cousin who does the same thing.
But why dogs you may wonder.
Or you may not. You may have other things on your mind. It's possible you're not thinking about dogs at all right now. If that's the case, please stop what you're doing and start thinking about dogs, okay?
But what does Comedy Guys Defensive Driving have to do with dogs? They're all about safe driving and ticket dismissal and insurance discounts and those sorts of things.
And — with the possible exceptions of Goofy and Hong Kong Phooey —no dog has ever driven a car.
That is true.
The safety issue here is pet owners leaving their dogs inside hot cars on very hot days. It happens multiple times every year, and it often ends in the dog suffering injury or even death.
But we at Comedy Guys hope that by understanding the dangers better, we can move people to take precautions to protect their beloved pets from the heat.
What Makes Hot Cars So Dangerous to Dogs?
The problem is many people don't realize how quickly temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Even on a day where the temperature is only 70 the temperature inside a car can rise to 90 in only ten minutes.
Dogs are particularly susceptible to the dangerous effects of heat. They are at their best between 68°F and 86°F, in general.
This is the temperature range called “thermo neutral zone,” meaning that their body doesn’t have to expend any energy to either keep warm or to cool off.
And remember that I said “in general.” This varies a lot based on the dog’s health, age, breed, and the thickness of their coat.
Dogs can acclimate to a hotter or colder temperatures, but this needs to be done slowly over about two months.
A human body responds to heat with perspiration, to cool the skin. But dogs can’t sweat. Their bodies try to expend excess internal heat through panting. It works, but it can only deal with so much heat. After that, the dog’s body heats up to point that
And dogs have a huge need for companionship. Being left alone in a car causes them anxiety, which increases their heart rate and raises body temperature. This makes even more prone to the effects of the heat.
Dogs and Hot Weather
Hot cars aside, the summer heat in general poses difficulties for dogs and other pets. That simple walk around the block that was so much fun for your dog in April can be torture in August.
And dogs can’t tell you when their miserable, so you have to proactively watch their behavior for the signs of overheating.
- Difficulty breathing or excessive panting
- Increased heart rate
- Mild weakness or slowness
- Clumsiness in moving or stupor
Watching your dog suffer while overheating is bad enough, but don't forget that there can also be long-term consequences for your dog, including neurological impairment and permanent damage to the kidneys, heart, and liver.
Here are some particular points to know about dogs and hot weather:
- Be especially aware of the humidity. On humid days dogs have a harder time breathing and may not be able to cool themselves sufficiently.
- Limit exercise on hot days. This is good advice for dogs and people. On the hottest days, try to walk your dog on grass. Hot pavement can burn their paws. And always take plenty of cold water for both of you.
- If you notice the signs of heat exhaustion in your pet’s behavior, get both of you out of the heat and into the shade. Or into the AC. Place ice packs on their neck and head and get them to the vet.
- Keep in mind old dogs and very young dogs are more likely to suffer heat stroke. And so are breeds with short snouts like boxers and pugs.
- Overweight dogs have a harder time cooling off. And this is becoming an increasing problem: the Association for Pet Obesity (https://petobesityprevention.org/) estimates that in 2017 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the USA weighed more than was healthy for them.
New Tennessee Law Protects Dogs in Hot Cars
…assuming you're reading this in the same month I'm writing it, which may not be correct. It could be that I'm writing this now, but you are not reading it until some month in the distant future. Wow. What are things like in the future? Is my credit score still lousy?
You know what? Never mind.
Back to work…
This month, the state of Tennessee is preparing to broaden the usefulness of their “Good Samaritan Law.” Right now, this law allows people to break a window to save children who’ve been left inside a locked car in the heat.
Starting July 1st, it will be legal to break into a car to save a pet.
This is a result of Tennessee House Bill 527, which is thought to be the first of its kind in the USA.
Please note that this is not blanket permission to break into cars. In order to be protected under this law, there are a few things the owner must do before breaking any windows.
- Make certain that all the vehicle doors are locked and that breaking a window is the only option to get inside.
- Have a “good faith belief” that the animal is imminent danger from the heat and that removing them from the vehicle is the only way to protect them.
- Contact the police, fire department, or 911 before breaking into the car.
- Stay reasonably close to the vehicle with the animal until some emergency responder arrives.
Also, the force used must be the bare minimum to open the vehicle and rescue the dog.
Any more than that or if the steps outlined above aren’t taken, and you may not be able to use the Good Samaritan Law to cover their smashing a window to save Rover from the heat.
And if you do break a car window to rescue a dog, be sensible about the broken glass. Don’t break the window closest to the dog and shower them with broken glass in the process. Break a window far away from the dog. If you the dog is following you around as you move to another window, try to get someone else to lure the dog to another part of the vehicle.
Dogs and other pets cannot protect themselves from being closed inside a hot car on a sunny day. It’s one of the things that we as responsible, loving pet owners have to do for them.
Always keep your pet's welfare in mind and that dog will be stealing food from your plate for many years to come.