What the BC SPCA says to do if you find a dog trapped in a hot car

May 10 2019, 11:19 pm

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 record-breaking hot 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, even if the vehicle is parked in the shade with the windows lowered,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.

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With summer temperatures in full swing, the danger from people leaving their pets in hot vehicles is rising with the mercury.

The BC SPCA explains that while “owners and caretakers may believe they’re doing their furry friend a favour while bringing them along on errands… minutes is all it takes for them to feel the life-threatening effects of a hot car.”

hot car


Dogs can’t release heat by sweating

Dogs are only able to cool off and release internal heat by either panting or releasing heat through their paws. Inside a hot car, releasing heat through their paws in incredibly difficult for dogs, especially when the seats and their surroundings are equally as warm.

With an average body temperature of 39°C, a short time in a hot environment can quickly raise their temperature to 41°C which can potentially lead to the risk of brain damage and even death.

According to the Canada Safety Council, a study funded by General Motors of Canada found the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exposed to the sun on a 35°C day can exceed 50°C within 20 minutes.

Leaving the A/C on in the car is still a bad idea

The BC SPCA explains that this is a misconception, primarily pulled from an internet post of a dog in a vehicle and a sign saying: “The A/C is on. He has water and is listening to his favourite music.”

According to senior animal protection officer Eileen Drever, “the animal can still end up at risk if the air conditioning stops working.” Also, if the owner of the vehicle believes that their A/C is a long-term solution, they’ll likely be gone for a longer period of time should anything go wrong.

“At the end of the day it’s best to simply leave your dog at home where there’s more space, water, and shade,” says Drever.

hot car


What does heatstroke in a dog look like?

Some of the symptoms of heatstroke involve:

  • Exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting)
  • Rapid or erratic pulse
  • Salivation
  • An anxious or staring expression
  • Weakness and muscle tremors
  • Lack of coordination
  • Convulsions or vomiting
  • Collapsing

What to do if you can remove the dog from the vehicle

If an animal is showing signs of heatstroke and you’re able to safely and lawfully remove the animal from the vehicle, here’s what to do:

  • Move the animal to a cool, shady place
  • Wet the animal with cool water. Ice won’t work, as it constricts blood flow
  • Fan the animal to help evaporation
  • Allow the animal to drink cold water (they can even lick ice cream if no water is available)
  • Take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment

You shouldn’t break glass windows if trying to save an animal

While most people have good intentions in trying to save an animal, it is heavily recommended that you don’t break through a glass window.

Only RCMP, local police, and BC SPCA Special Constables have the authority to enter a vehicle lawfully.

“Not only are you putting yourself at risk when you break a glass window, but also risk harming the dog – which might make the pup more nervous,” says Drever.

So what do you do?

Here’s what to do when you see an animal in distress in a parked vehicle:

  • Write down the license plate, vehicle colour, make, and model, and ask managers of nearby businesses to page the owner immediately.
  • Contact your local animal control agency, police, RCMP, or the BC SPCA Hotline (1-855-622-7722) as soon as possible.
  • Keep a kit in your car in case you spot an animal in distress. This includes a bottle of water, a small bowl, a small battery-powered fan, and a towel that can be soaked in water.

With files from Eric Zimmer and Ainsley Smith

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