Q: What’s the truth about dogs in cars? I hear that dogs should never wait in empty cars during the summer, even with the windows cracked open. Sometimes I see them there, and they don’t seem distressed.
A: Heatstroke is all too common in dogs left in cars during the warmer months, even for short periods of time. No dog should ever be left in a car during warm weather.
Even with the windows cracked open, the car heats up like an oven within minutes. The increased temperature damages the brain and other organs.
All dogs are at risk, especially young, old and overweight dogs, those with short muzzles or dense coats, anxious dogs, and dogs with laryngeal paralysis or heart disease. Despite treatment, half the dogs with heatstroke die, generally within the first 24 hours.
Early clinical signs include panting, increased salivation, bright pink gums and increased heart rate. If your dog ever shows signs of heatstroke, which may occur even during a walk on a warm day, it’s essential that you get him to the veterinarian quickly. Before you set out for the veterinarian’s office, offer your dog cool water to drink and drape him with cool, damp towels.
If you can, use the hose to spray him with room-temperature water, but not cold water, which will constrict his blood vessels and prevent heat dissipation. Research shows the prognosis is better when the cooling process begins before the trip to the veterinarian.
The best plan is to prevent heatstroke by leaving dogs at home during the summer months.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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