Pets and Hot Cars

Summer is right around the corner in New England and this is a good time to remind all pet owners not to leave your pets in the car on a hot summer day.

Sadly, hundreds of pets die annually from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to sweat. They rely mainly on their respiratory tract to dissipate heat by panting. Dogs with more nasal surface area are more efficient at dissipating heat vs. smush faced breeds (like Pugs, Bulldogs or Shih Tzus). However, tragedy from overheating can strike all breeds in a very short amount of time.

I think it’s safe to assume all pet owners have good intentions when they leave their pet unattended for “just a few minutes while I go in the store.” Unfortunately, even with windows cracked studies show the temperature in your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes. Within 20 minutes, temps can rise almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The longer you wait the higher the temperature goes. At 60 minutes, the temperature in your vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. To put that in perspective, a 70 degree day can quickly become 110 degrees inside your vehicle!

These temperatures put your pet at risk of heat stroke, serious illness and often times death, even on a day that doesn’t seem very hot to you and I.

A study performed by the Louisiana Office of Public Health, found that the temperatures in a dark sedan as well as a light gray minivan parked on a hot, but partly cloudy day, exceeded 125 degrees within 20 minutes. In addition, this same study found that cracking the windows had very little effect on the temperature rise inside the vehicle.

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature vs. Elapsed Time

Elapsed Time Outside                                         Air Temperature (F)

0 minutes                                                               70 75 80 85 90 95
10 minutes                                                             89 94 99 104 109 114
20 minutes                                                             99 104 109 114 119 124
30 minutes                                                             104 109 114 119 124 129
40 minutes                                                             108 113 118 123 128 133
50 minutes                                                             111 116 121 126 131 136
60 minutes                                                             113 118 123 128 133 138
> 1 hour                                                                 115 120 125 130 135 140

Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University

Everyone who knows me, appreciates that I’m a huge fan of having my own dogs come everywhere with me in the car. They are my best buddies and co-pilots. Nevertheless, once the temps start to rise I prescribe to a love ‘em and leave ‘em philosophy. When it’s time to leave the house to run errands, I give Fletch and Scout a big kiss on the nose and leave them home in the air conditioned house.