Record-breaking heat in the last week of May here on Dr. Dressler’s island home of Maui gives us reason to remember: dogs die in hot cars. A car parked in the shade with its windows cracked can become 20º F degrees hotter than the air outside within ten minutes. And if you leave your pup longer? It can rise 40º F within an hour. For example, if it’s 80º F outside within one hour it will be 123º F inside your car. Even the balmiest of climates is too hot for your dog in the car.
So this summer as you ferry your dog with cancer to vet appointments, remember: don’t leave her or her packmates in your car!
If your dog has cancer, this is the book to get. Like, today.
Heat Stroke and Dogs 🙁
Dogs handle heat release differently from humans. Dogs die in hot cars because they don’t sweat, and can really only cool down by panting. And panting can only do so much.
Once a dog’s internal temperature reaches 105.8º F he’s at risk for heat stroke. As he overheats, his heart rate goes up and his capillaries (small blood vessels) open up in the skin to try to cool down his core. He starts to pant to release heat from the mucous membranes in his mouth and nose. He might start licking his fur in a desperate attempt to wet it so it cools him down.
Meanwhile, his body functions start going haywire. The heart starts to fail to pump enough blood to the organs and the skin. The heat builds up in the body, causing more damage. Blood pressure drops, the organs start to collect blood and fail, and he goes into shock. He might have diarrhea, or vomit, or you might see thick, ropy saliva hanging from his mouth. By the time he’s found, he may be unable to stand, unable to coordinate his limbs, or even lift his head. Or he might already be gone. It’s terrifying.
Especially so because only 50% of dogs who get heat stroke survive.
So, let’s avoid it, right?
Dogs Die In Hot Cars Because: HOT CARS
Here’s a great video a vet made to illustrate for us humans just how terrible being locked in a car with the windows cracked can be for a dog:
If you see a dog in a hot car panting or showing any of the signs of heat stroke, call 911 and try to get the dog to a vet ASAP.
Meanwhile, take steps this summer to keep your dog cool!
Cooling Down Your Dog on a Hot Day
Here are some common sense strategies to keep your girl from overheating.
- Don’t walk on pavement or asphalt if it’s too hot. How hot? Reach down and touch it. If you have to draw your hand away, it’s too hot for your dog’s very sensitive pads.
Too Hot to Touch = Too Hot to Walk
- To avoid hot pavement, walk in the early mornings, late evenings or at night time when it’s cooler.
- Bring water with you on your walk, and offer it often.
- Use your garden hose or an outdoor shower to wet your pup’s fur, creating a cool little halo around his body.
- If your dog seems overheated, get indoors to the cool ASAP.
- Apply cool (not cold or iced) wet towels to the groin, chest, stomach, and paws to speed cooling.
- Leave your pup at home for errands.
- If you must have your dog with you, stay with her. Eat in the car with her and monitor her to make sure she’s OK.
- Leave the car running and the air conditioning on to battle the heat for her.
- Add ice cubes to your dog’s water for a cooler drink.
- Use a kiddie pool in your yard for your dog’s play — they love the splashing!
Stay cool, fellow dog lovers, and have fun this summer with your pup!
Molly Jacobson is a writer and also the editor of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, published by Maui Media. A lifelong dog lover and self-professed dog health nerd, she is all too familiar with dog cancer. She has been supporting readers of this blog since the beginning. Molly earned a BA from Tufts University, and after a career in bookselling and book publishing attended The Swedish Institute to become a licensed massage therapist in New York State, licensed by the medical board. Her fascination with health is both personal and global, and she is most proud of how this site and the associated publications have revolutionized not only our approach to dog health, but our own health.