With hot summer weather on its way, and more people travelling, the perennial problem of pets left in hot cars while their owners go about their business will once again raise its ugly head.
Each year, the BC SPCA receives nearly 1,000 calls to rescue animals that have been left inside vehicles on hot days. “We know that people love their pets and would never knowingly put them in danger, but many pet guardians are just unaware of how quickly their pets can suffer when left in a vehicle in warm weather,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of communications for the BC SPCA.
“Even parked in the shade, with windows cracked open, the temperatures inside a vehicle can become deadly.”
This month, the BC SPCA is calling on all animal lovers to take a No Hot Pets pledge to keep their pets safe this summer and to warn others of the dangers of leaving animals in their vehicles. “The death of a pet left in a hot car is a completely preventable tragedy, and by taking the BC SPCA pledge people can help us raise awareness and save lives,” says Chortyk.
She notes that because dogs don’t “sweat” like humans and can’t release heat from their bodies as quickly, they can succumb to heatstroke and heat exhaustion in a short period of time. “Some dogs, including senior pets and those with flatter faces, experience even more challenges in hot weather.” Signs of heatstroke include exaggerated panting, a rapid or erratic pulse, salivating, an anxious or staring expression, weakness or lack of coordinated movement, vomiting, convulsions, and collapse.
While owners often rationalize leaving pets in cars because they are just running a quick errand, unexpected delays can occur, and interior temperatures rise quickly. A study conducted by San Francisco State University showed that with an outside temperature of 32° C, the interior temperature of a vehicle reached 43° C in 10 minutes; climbed to 48° C in 20 minutes; and reached 56° C in one hour. The study also found that cracking the windows or parking in the shade had little impact on how hot a vehicle gets.
These are sobering temperatures, given that in the height of summer the daytime high in this region can top 37° C. And it isn’t just the air temperature that heats up: seats, steering wheels, seatbelt buckles, and dashboards get even hotter, putting pets at more risk.
If you see a pet in a car in hot weather, the BC SPCA recommends taking the following steps:
1. If the animal is showing clear signs of heatstroke or distress, call your local animal control agency, police, RCMP, or the BC SPCA Call Centre at 1-855-622-7722. Do not attempt to break a window to rescue an animal: not only do you risk injuring the animal, but only RCMP, local police, and BC SPCA Special Constables have the authority to enter a vehicle lawfully to help an animal.
2. If the animal is not in distress, but you are concerned, note the license plate and vehicle description and ask managers of nearby businesses to page the owner to return to their vehicle immediately. You may wish to stay with the vehicle to monitor the situation until the owner returns.
If your pet is suffering from heatstroke, move it to a cool or shaded area and direct a fan on it. Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in in the groin area. Wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water, and transport the pet to a veterinary clinic immediately.
Do not force water into your pet, but have it available if they show an interest in drinking, and be sure not to over-cool your pet.
Go to www.spca.bc.ca/nohotpets to take the No Hot Pets pledge and help save animal lives this summer.