Summer isn’t even officially here, but headlines are beginning to pop up about pets dying in vehicles as a result of being overheated.
It's the unfortunate continuation of a trend: Since last year, there have been at least 64 hot weather-related animal deaths, according to PETA.
The deaths have been reported all across the country, too — from Massachusetts to Arizona. There was even a dog-in-hot-vehicle death reported in Alaska.
With intense heat no doubt on the way for much of the country — including forecasts this week for a heat wave on the West Coast — PETA issued an urgent warning last week: Vulnerable animals are at risk and should never be left in a vehicle on a hot day.
Of course, traveling with pets is not a new topic for RVLifestyle and for good reason: According to our survey, about two-thirds of RVers travel with animals (mostly dogs). The topic has been subject of past podcasts and blogs.
But I can't help but feel like that PETA warning makes it seem like there’s no better time than now to revisit the topic of pets in hot vehicles.
“Every year, we alert people to the danger of leaving children or pets inside cars in the summer,” says Chief of Police James R. Kruger Jr. from Oak Brook, Illinois in a PETA release. “The temperature inside a vehicle climbs approximately 43 degrees in just an hour. The loss of a defenseless animal in this manner is avoidable and should never happen. There is no reason to take your pet out in extreme heat without adequate air conditioning and water.”
ASPCA notes that on an 85 degree Fahrenheit day, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of a vehicle to reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit. And that’s with the windows left open an inch or two.
Within 30 minutes, that same vehicle’s interior can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
And don’t be fooled by cooler temps. ASPCA says on an otherwise pleasant 70-degree Fahrenheit day, the inside of a vehicle can still be 20 degrees warmer than outside.
According to a Veterinary Pet Insurance, a Nationwide Insurance company, a dog can begin to suffer from heat exhaustion once temperatures reach 83 degrees. When a dog’s core temperature approaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit, heat stroke can occur and quickly become fatal.
When dogs are hot, they begin to pant and drool. Other signs of heat exhaustion include vomiting, weakness, collapse and seizures.
Brachycephalic (short-snouted) dog breeds with such as boxers, pugs, Shar-Peis, Boston terriers, Brussels griffins, mastiffs, chow-chows, bull dogs, French bull dogs, Shih Tzus, Staffordshire terriers, and spaniels are more susceptible to heat stroke. In other words, they can fall victim to heat exhaustion at a faster rate than dog breeds with a longer snout.
Humidity is also a contributing fact to heat stroke/heat exhaustion in dogs.
Humidity increases the heat index; for example, a relatively cool 75 degree day with 75 percent humidity can feel like a 150 degree day to a dog in a fur coat.
“It’s a deadly combination,” Veterinary Pet Insurance reports.
Some of the tips suggested by PETA and ASPCA when it comes to animals in, or potentially in, hot cars are:
- Carry a gallon thermos of cold water or bring along a two-liter plastic bottle of water you froze the night before.
- Exercise your pet during the coolest parts of the day (dawn and dusk), and never immediately following a meal.
- Provide shade when your pet is outside on a hot day.
- If your dog is overcome by heat, bring down body temperature by soaking the animal in cool (not ice) water, but make sure water does not get into the mouth or nose of an unconscious animal. Seek immediate veterinary care.
Additionally, at least nine states like Indiana have passed so-called “good samaritan” laws that allow an individual or individuals to essentially do whatever it takes to save an animal believed to be in danger as a result of heat. In other words, leave your animal in a hot RV and it's possible you could return to find a window busted out or door kicked in. Further, you could face charges if the police become involved.