New Zealand is a nation of dog owners, with the New Zealand Companion Animal Council estimating that there are approximately 700,000 pet dogs in New Zealand. But with the weather warmining up remember: don’t leave your dog or cat in the car. Even if you crack the windows, Fido is in grave peril.
Most dog owners, like parents, will only crack the window when they leave their dog in the car, afraid that Fluffy might escape or the Toyota might get stolen.
Cracking a window makes no difference
Heat stress studies like this one from Stanford University have proven that cracking the windows cannot keep a car cool enough for a pet or a child to survive. The study showed a car’s internal temperate rises to a shocking 47 degrees within the first hour – on a cool, 22 degree day – and continues to rise.
During the entire New Zealand summer, we can expect car interior temperatures to reach fatal or life-threatening levels.
The greatest amount of heat increase happens in the first 30 minutes – and cracking the window makes less than 5 degrees of difference in the temperature. More importantly, after 30 minutes, cracking a window makes no difference at all, and the temperatures will not be bearable by children or pets.
An earlier study by the Louisiana Office of Public Health found that on a cloudy day, temperatures in a car could reach 51 degrees in as little as than 20 minutes.
Imagine bumping into a friend in the carpark and pausing for a quick, 10-minute chat. Then inside the supermarket, you face a longer line than expected, another 10 minutes gone. Sadly, your dog might already have died from the heat.
At elevated body temperatures, dog’s organs begin to shut down irreversibly, cells die, and the animal risks dying of shock, says Dr Chris Papantonio of the Colyton Vet Hospital in NSW.
Dr Papantonio explains, “Dogs cannot efficiently cool themselves down as well as we do. A dog can succumb to heat stroke within minutes.”
“We had a client transport their dog in the back of their car to the dog park. On the way, they dropped off at the shops to pick some things up and left him in the car. By the time they got to the dog park, the dog was already showing signs of heat stroke so they rushed him into us for treatment.”
Breeds at special risk of heatstroke
Brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, have a higher risk of heatstroke. Their head shape prevents adequate air flow and cooling, even when the dog is panting.
What to do if you see a pet in a car
Pet insurance provider Pet Insurance Australia recommends you do the following if you ever see a dog struggling in a hot car:
- Take down the vehicle’s registration.
- Ask nearby businesses if you can make an announcement over the P.A. system, just in case the owner is nearby.
- Call your local animal rescue centre, or your local police.
- Wait by the car until help arrives.
Other summer threats to your pet
Keep your pets safe this festive season. Watch out for these other potential threats to your beloved pet:
- Accidental food poisoning and pancreatitis: Pets are not designed to eat fatty and processed human foods, so make sure no one feeds your pet their leftovers at Christmas lunch.
- Accidental alcohol poisoning: Keep the alcohol as far from your pets as you would keep it from your young children.
- Ear and skin infections: A trip to the beach can mean an infection if you don’t rinse your dog down from head to toe afterwards, and clean their ears regularly.