Parked Cars Deadly For Dogs In Summer

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Parked Cars Deadly For Dogs In Summer

by William Link

Leaving a child unattended in a car has become a surefire way to get served with a lawsuit and criminal charges. You can bring your child almost anywhere with you anyway, so why take the risk? However, many places are not so accommodating to dogs. If your dog loves car rides you have a decision to make: do you leave your dog in your car or do you leave him at home?

If you're science-averse or already know the details, feel free to skip the following description of why sealed cars can be dangerous.

Your Car Can Become A Miniature Greenhouse Shortwave radiation from the sun enters through the windows, then hits the dashboard, seats, and steering wheel. In many cars these surfaces are a dark color. It's common knowledge that dark colors absorb shortwave radiation well so they heat up quickly, but that's not the whole story.

The dark dashboard, seats and steering wheel also heat the surrounding air via conduction and convection. Additionally, they give off longwave radiation, which spreads heat throughout the vehicle, effectively turning your car into a miniature greenhouse.

Stanford Study Finds Heat Can Be Extreme The heating effect can be extreme and it can happen regardless of the temperature outside; if there is even a chance that the outside temperature may exceed 70 degrees on a sunny day, the heat can build up dangerously fast. A 2002 Stanford University study explored just how much change you can expect.

Using a dark blue mid-size sedan with a medium gray interior, they found that the average interior temperature increased by more than 40 degrees in one hour. 80% of the increase occurred in the first half-hour and heating was particularly brutal in the first 10 minutes, which saw an average jump of 20 degrees. On the hottest days, the final temperature exceeded 130 degrees but on all days the final temperature exceeded 110 degrees, even when the outdoor temperature was in the low 70s.

What If I Leave The Windows Down? Can cracking a window open help? Unfortunately no, says the study, as opening the window decreased the rate of heating by less than 1 degree per minute and the final temperature remained close to what it was when the windows were closed.

This is so dangerous to dogs because of how they deal with excess heat. They only sweat through their paws, which doesn't cool their bodies quickly enough. To compensate, they pant, expelling hot air. However, in a sealed car panting only makes the situation worse as the hot air inside the car increases the dog's body temperature further. A dog trapped in this situation could slowly die but even leaving your dog in the car for a few minutes while you run into the store can be dangerous.

What To Do With A Dog Suffering From Heat Stroke If your dog's body temperature rises above 105 degrees, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can follow in a matter of minutes. This leads to vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding. If your dog appears to be suffering from serious heat stroke, first take steps to lower his body temperature: immediately get him to the shade, provide water, and apply a cold towel to high-circulation areas like the armpits or neck. Putting your dog in cool (not cold) water can also help.

After taking these steps, contact your veterinarian immediately; heat stroke is an emergency, and without treatment delayed complications can occur.

The Safest Course of Action The safest choice is most likely the simplest choice: in the summertime leave your dog at home unless you're sure that you're not going to be making any stops on your drive. Even if your stop is just for a minute, any unexpected delay could put your dog at risk and the risk simply isn't worth it.

In Northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Animal Protective League will respond to dogs locked in vehicles; if the dog's life is in danger, they will call the police, leaving you with a broken window and maybe even legal troubles.

This summer, for your sake and your dog's, listen to Nova Scotia SPCA spokeswoman Judith Gass:

At this time of year, don't leave your pet unattended in a car, not even for a minute. It's just that simple.

William Link is an intern at Embrace Pet Insurance (pet insurance for cats and dogs). Will is double majoring in Economics and English at Case Western Reserve University. His internship is focused on learning more about the insurance industry. Will plans to get a dog when he graduates in 2008.

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