As August winds down many of us are busy enjoying our all-too-brief summer weather. While this warm weather is pleasant for us as we enjoy outdoor activities, it may not be so ideal for our pets.
While most of us would not stake our dog out in the middle of our yard in the hot sun, it is surprising how many people will take their dog for a ride with them in the car and then leave the dog in the car while they go into a restaurant, the grocery store or the doctor’s office. They leave the windows closed or cracked open slightly; lock the car and walk away feeling that the animal will be OK while they are gone. This is inhumane. Cars heat up rapidly with a panting dog inside. They also heat up very quickly when the sun is shining due to the sun’s energy being trapped in the car once it goes through the windows…..even if the windows are wide open. The car basically turns into a greenhouse. Even when it is not very hot outside the inside of the car can heat up to very high temperatures in a very short period of time. Try sitting in a car on a sunny day with the windows closed or slightly open and the motor turned off. Within fifteen minutes the car becomes very uncomfortable….after a half hour, it may be lethal. Remember dogs cool themselves by panting, not by sweating like we do. If they are breathing in hot air, they get even hotter.
Just like it is unacceptable to leave a child unattended in a car, it is unacceptable to leave a pet in a car. Even if the car is running, there is the potential that the car could stall or run out of gas while you are in the store shopping and your animal is literally cooking to death in the car. This is not a nice thing to do to a loved one. If you have errands to run, leave your dog at home. If you do see a pet locked in a car that is not running on a hot, sunny day, stay nearby to ensure that the owner returns promptly. If they do not return in a short period of time, be ready to call the police and let them decide whether they need to unlock the car door or break a window to save the dogs life.
In the summer we’ll sometimes see animals loose in the back of pickup trucks. They appear to be having a great time looking around. If you have to hit your brakes quickly to avoid a squirrel in the road or a pedestrian that steps out without looking, you may have your beloved pets slam into the back of the truck’s cab and sustain serious injuries.
Some people allow their dogs to sit on their laps while they are driving and put their heads out the window. This is dangerous for everyone in the car. The dog may get excited when it sees another dog or cat and possibly scratch the driver or get in his field of view causing an accident. Also if you get into an accident, your animal may get trapped between you and your airbag or it may even serve as your airbag and get killed as you crush them against the steering wheel.
While I have been writing about animals getting injured while they are in vehicles, we must not forget that they can also be injured by vehicles when they are not in them. Being presented with a hit by a car (HBC) is one of the things we hate to see the most as veterinarians. Broken bones, organ damage and in some cases death often results from these avoidable collisions. We cannot in good conscience let our animals run free if there is a road nearby. Please treat your pets like the special creatures that they are. Leave them at home if you are not just going out for a brief ride to deer watch or to get an ice cream cone. You can save yourself a lot of heartache by traveling safely with your pet and not letting vehicular mishaps interfere with the human-animal bond that you share with them.
Tony Beane, DVM
Professor of Veterinary Science Technology SUNY Canton
Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Potsdam Humane Society