Dog owners receive regular reminders of the importance of not leaving their dogs unattended in their cars during the summer. However, this is something that still happens from time to time in spite of such reminders. For instance, Swansea, Wales saw a recent example when shoppers spotted a dog in a car in a supermarket’s parking lot. Initially, the shoppers sought to get the dog owner to get the dog out, which is why they informed the supermarket of the situation. However, when about 30 minutes had passed without the supermarket being able to reach the dog owner with its broadcasts, the shoppers decided to get the dog out by smashing the car’s window. What has been recorded on video suggests that the dog found the whole experience to be rather frightful, but considering the circumstances, that was still a much better outcome than what could have happened if someone hadn’t intervened.
Why Was This Necessary?
Living beings can overheat. This is when their body temperature rises beyond tolerable boundaries, whether because they are absorbing more heat or producing more heat than what their body can dissipate. Unfortunately, this can be very disruptive for living beings, so much so that overheating can cause multiple organ failure as a wide range of other serious medical problems. Dogs are no exception to this rule. If anything, they are even more susceptible to overheating than humans.
For starters, dogs can’t regulate their body temperature by sweating. They have secretions that are meant to keep certain parts of themselves well-moisturized, but that is very far from being the same thing as human sweat. Instead, dogs have other ways to keep themselves cool. Primarily, this means panting, which is a huge problem because said activity is very counter-productive when a dog has been locked inside a car. One, panting can be pretty physically-intense, meaning that a panting dog can wind up generating heat that causes them to pant even harder. Two, the breath emitted by the dog’s panting will remain trapped inside the car, thus causing its interior to become hotter as well as more humid. Besides this, keen-eyed individuals might have noticed dogs lying on cooler surfaces when the temperatures are high, which is helpful because that enables them to transfer some of their body heat to those cooler surfaces. However, that isn’t possible in a car because all of the surfaces are going to heat up when outside temperatures are high. On top of this, while a dog’s fur can actually prove helpful by blocking some of the heat seeking to make its way to the dog’s body, that changes once the heat has managed to make its way through. Once that has happened, the fur can trap the heat, thus making it even more difficult for dogs to cool off.
Having said that, the most serious issue might be the fact that dogs can’t do anything to help themselves when they have been locked into a car. After all, they can’t get out, meaning that they can’t search for a cooler location in which to recuperate. Furthermore, they can’t turn on the car’s air conditioner until they are more comfortable. As such, it is no wonder that dogs fare so poorly when they have been put into such a bad situation.
What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Dogs in Cars?
Here are some common misconceptions that can cause people to leave their dogs unattended in their cars, meaning that interested individuals need to look out for them:
- The Dog Will Be Fine Because It Is Just 70°F Outside – For most people, 70°F isn’t very hot. However, that is more than enough to cause the interior of a locked car to become very hot within a very short period of time, as shown by one study that found that the relevant temperature had hit 93°F in 10 minutes, 105°F in 20 minutes, 110°F in 30 minutes, and 119°F in an hour even though it was just a 72° day in San Francisco. Even worse, there have been reports of pets becoming overheated even with temperatures in the low 60s, which can happen because some of them are much more susceptible to overheating than others.
- The Dog Will Be Fine Because the Windows Have Been Left Cracked – Cracking the windows has a beneficial effect. Unfortunately, this beneficial effect is so minute that it doesn’t matter. There are studies that found that cracking the windows made for no more than a 3.6°F difference in temperature rise at the end of a 60-minute period and a 2°F difference in temperature rise at the end of a 90-minute period. Suffice to say that is nowhere near enough to keep a dog cool in a car when it is hot outside.
- The Dog Will Be Fine Because the Air Conditioner Is Still Running – The air conditioner can indeed keep a car cool. However, it isn’t as reliable as it seems. One, either the air conditioner or the car engine that enables the air conditioner can fail, at which point, the dog is in serious trouble while the dog owner remains unaware. Two, dogs have been known to move about in cars, with the result that they can turn off the air conditioner by accident. Neither one of these two scenarios are hypothetical because both of them have happened to more than one dog ever since interested individuals started paying attention to the matter.
- The Dog Will Be Fine Because They Will Be On Their Own For Just a Few Minutes – On a final note, there are a lot of people out there who leave their dog unattended because of the assumption that they will be gone for just a few minutes, meaning that they will be back before anything bad can happen. Unfortunately, just because they think that they will be gone for just a few minutes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the case. First, they might not have a clear idea of how long their errand will take. Second, they might get delayed by any number of things that can happen along the way that are wholly beyond their ability to control. Combined with the fact that a car can heat up very fast even when outside temperatures are still relatively mild, such assumptions can be very dangerous for a dog locked up in it.