Local animal shelters are reminding the public about the dangers of leaving your pet in a vehicle.
Heat stroke, kidney failure, and even death are some of the consequences that can stem from a dog being left in a vehicle on a hot day.
According to Bonnyville and District SPCA executive director Judith Rodriguez, a dog’s average body temperature is 38-degrees celsius.
That means, when sitting in a car in the summer, regardless of shade or the windows being open, they can get hot fast.
“If we’re talking about being in an environment on a regular hot day, they’re hot. Dogs don’t sweat, and if they’re in a car even for five minutes, the temperature of the car will go up really fast,” explained Rodriguez.
She described the feeling as “being in the sun fully dressed,” with no water or breeze to help you cool off.
As a result, a dog can suffer from heat stroke in a matter of minutes.
“They can very quickly go into distress when they’re left in the heat. The most likely thing that could happen when they’re left for a period of time in a warm vehicle is heat stroke, and that’s really your biggest danger,” detailed Nicole Mbanefo, Lakeland Humane Society animal care and operations coordinator.
Signs of heat stroke include increased panting, rapid pulse, excessive drooling, high anxiety, muscle tremors, and convulsions.
“It can happen very quickly once it gets to a certain temperature,” said Mbanefo. “They can’t take off their fur and they don’t release heat by sweating.”
If an animal isn’t removed from the situation, their blood vessels can begin to burst and cause irreparable damage to internal organs. Pets can even suffer from kidney failure, cerebral enema, gastrula enema, and death.
Tammy Anderson, veterinarian from the Bonnyville Vet Clinic, said most cases she has seen involving heat stroke caused by dogs being left in vehicles have resulted in death.
“I’ve seen mild cases of heat stroke, but those are more like an animal that got heat stroke from being outside… In my experience, animals that have been left in cars and have developed heat stroke are likely not to survive. It’s quite aggressive treatment.”
The solution is simple, leave your pets at home, Mbanefo said.
“It’s always about prevention. Don’t ever leave your dog in the car, even with the windows open,” added Rodriguez.
Ashley Hebert, shelter assistant at the Bonnyville SPCA, said a car, even with all of the windows down, can feel like an oven.
This is why the local humane society and SPCA are asking residents to avoid unnecessary trips with their pets, especially during the summer.
When it comes to reporting a pet in a vehicle, the first call should be to the RCMP.
“I have lots of people sharing stories about breaking windows and saving dogs, but unless it’s a last resort, the best thing to do would be to call the RCMP or bylaw, and get someone over there who can take responsibility of the situation so you’re not liable for anything if you break a window to save an animal,” Mbanefo explained.
Once you’ve made the call, try locating the owner. If the vehicle is parked in front of a store, go inside and ask them to make an announcement.
“You have to go to the vet immediately. The prognosis is really poor depending on how long the dog was in the vehicle,” said Rodriguez. “They have to give plenty of IV fluids in order to lower the internal temperature, but who knows what has been damaged already.”
Anderson added, “You want to bring their temperature down, but you have to be careful when doing that. You don’t want to pack them with ice. Often we get them on IV fluids and will sometimes put ice packs on their paws.”
Regardless of rising temperatures, Mbanefo stressed it’s really never a good idea to leave a pet in a vehicle by themselves, especially one that’s running.
They could figure out how to open the window and escape, or they could harm themselves or others.
“Pets can get into trouble when left in a vehicle alone. They should definitely not be left out there,” she said.
Mbanefo added, “You would think by now people would know better. It’s getting the word out and letting people know that it isn’t okay. It doesn’t take long for dogs to overheat and go into heat exhaustion.”