Hot pets. Not cool.
That’s the message the BC SPCA wants people to know when travelling by vehicle with their four-legged friends this summer.
With the recent run of warm weather, the BC SPCA said it has already received several calls about animals in hot cars, and once again, the animal welfare society is reminding people to leave their pets at home if they can’t keep them safe.
“People don’t realize just how quickly their cars can become death traps for their pets – it can take as little as 10 minutes for the vehicle to reach temperatures where the animal can suffer irreparable brain damage or death,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.
“We know that if people are taking their pets with them, it’s because they love them and want to spend time with them, but we really do encourage pet guardians to please, leave their pets at home when they’re going out in the car.”
In just minutes, the temperature in a parked car can climb to well over 38°C.
“Dogs have no sweat glands, so they can only cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws,” said Chortyk. “Dogs can withstand high temperatures for only a very short time – in some cases just minutes – before suffering irreparable brain damage or death.”
While people “might feel guilty” about leaving their four-legged friend at home when running errands or taking short trips around town, “your dog will be much happier – and safer – at home, with shade and plenty of fresh cool water,” Chortyk said.
What to do if you see an animal in distress in a parked vehicle:
- Note the license plate and vehicle information and ask managers of nearby businesses to page the owner to return to their vehicle immediately
- Call to report the animal in car situation if no owner is found or when the animal is suffering symptoms of heatstroke
- In an emergency, call 911 for RCMP attendance. It is illegal for members of the public to break a window to access the vehicle themselves
- Keep emergency supplies – bottled water, a small bowl, a towel that can be soaked in water- in your car so that you help hydrate an animal (if a window has been left open) while you wait for emergency response teams. A battery-powered fan from a dollar store also can be handy to circulate air
Symptoms of heatstroke in pets:
- Exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting)
- Rapid or erratic pulse
- Anxious or staring expression
- Weakness and muscle tremors
- Lack of coordination, convulsions
If your pet shows symptoms of heatstroke:
- Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place
- Wet the animal with cool water
- Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This will cool the blood, which reduces the animal’s core temperature
- Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow, which will inhibit cooling
- Allow the animal to drink some cool water (or to lick ice cream if no water is available)
- Take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment
If you see an animal you think is in distress call the BC SPCA animal cruelty hotline at 1-855-622-7722 during business hours and staff will help connect you with your local animal control or police.