You know you shouldn’t leave your dog in the car in summer, but do you know exactly what happens inside your dog’s body in the heat? Do you know why it’s so deadly?
First, let’s look at exactly how hot a car can get in the summer.
Check out this from the ASPCA to see how quickly the heat increases over time. On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside your car can reach 109 degrees in just twenty minutes.
Now let’s look at what happens inside your dog’s body.
Dogs are different than humans in the way they dissipate heat. Dogs lack sweat glands. Instead of sweating, they lose heat through panting and through dilation of blood vessels in the hairless areas on their bodies (inside of ear, bellies, and paw pads).
Panting brings air directly into the lungs to cool the dog. Once ambient temperature begins to rise and reach the dog’s core temperature, they’re no longer pulling in cooler air. Instead, they are panting and pulling in extremely hot air that in turn causes their body temperature to rise even more quickly.
As their core temperature rises, the blood vessels designed to dilate and keep blood in liquid form become exposed and damaged. Once the vessel lining is damaged, it doesn’t function properly to cool the dog and blood begins to clot. Blood pressure begins to drop, fluid loss increases because of increased panting, and core body temperature increases even more rapidly. The whole process can happen as quick as five to ten minutes. That’s why it’s never okay to leave your dog in a vehicle in the summer, not even for a minute.
Normal body temperature for a dog is between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures at and over 103 degrees are considered abnormal, and temperatures around 106+ degrees can cause multiple organ failure.
It’s very important to cool your dog if you suspect heat exhaustion. Organ damage can occur and lead to death. The liver and kidneys sustain damage because of decreased blood flow due to clotting. Toxins created by other damaged tissues are released into the body. The gastrointestinal tract suffers direct cell damage due to the high core body temperature. This causes blood loss through bloody vomit and diarrhea and can lead to the sloughing of the GI tract lining. Since the GI tract is one of the most important barriers for bacteria, the damage can lead to serious infections in the dog’s body.
If you see a dog locked in a car, what do you do? Many states have laws that protect citizens helping dogs in danger of dying from heat stroke. Visit https://www.animallaw.info/topic/table-state-laws-protect-animals-left-parked-vehicles to see what the law says in your state. Regardless, you shouldn’t take it lightly. Do what you can to help save the dog’s life. Every second counts.
For information on how to cool a dog experiencing heat stroke, read our blog on heat exhaustion here: Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
Also, please note that cracking the car windows does NOT make it okay to leave your pet in the car. IT’S STILL TOO HOT.