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Don't risk leaving pets in the car

A dog runs on a leash followed by two women.

July 16, 2021— On a summer day, it can seem so harmless to just zip into the store for a few minutes, leaving a pet inside a parked car or truck with the windows cracked.

Unfortunately, every year hundreds of pets die of heat exhaustion after being left in vehicles. The surprising truth is that a vehicle can get 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the outside air in the short time it takes to run an errand. Within an hour, the vehicle can be 40 degrees hotter.

That's why the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals all urge drivers to leave their furry friends at home.

How hot can it get?

Temperatures rise more rapidly inside a parked vehicle than you'd expect. A pleasant 70 degrees outside can become 99 degrees inside a car in just 20 minutes.

During a heat wave, it can be even worse. A 95-degree day reaches 114 in a car after just 10 minutes. And after an hour, it hits almost 140 degrees inside the vehicle.

Cracking a window doesn't make a difference in the temperature either. The situation can be so dangerous for pets that in some states, it's even illegal to leave an animal in a hot car.

Animals that are young, old or overweight are especially at risk of getting overheated. So are those that have heart or lung conditions, short muzzles, thick fur, or dark coats.

How to help an overheated pet

If an animal is panting heavily, has glazed eyes, appears sluggish or unsteady, or has collapsed or vomited, it needs help right away.

You'll want to move the pet to a cooler area and sprinkle cool water on it to gently lower its body temperature. You can also place cool cloths on the back of the neck, in the armpits and in the groin—and wet the ear flaps and paws. Offer cool water to drink, but don't force it. And see a vet immediately.

What can you do if you see a pet in distress in a vehicle?

  • Call animal control or the police.
  • Write down the vehicle color, make, model and license plate number.
  • Go to the nearest store or business and ask someone to page the driver.
  • Return to the car and stay watchful until authorities arrive or the owner returns.

Our animal buddies rely on us to protect them. Leaving them at home instead of in a hot vehicle is the best way to avoid the risks and worry on a hot summer's day.

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