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Animal Welfare League Shows Dangers of Leaving Dogs in Hot Cars

A demonstration car showed the temperature had reached 140 degrees inside a car by noon on Thursday

“Never leave your dog in a hot car” is the message the Animal Welfare League is sending through its demonstration car parked on the sidewalk in front of Alexandria's Vola Lawson Animal Shelter.

A Fiat with stuffed animal dogs and thermometers inside showcases just how quickly the inside of a car can get on a hot day.

On Thursday by 10 a.m., the thermometers had reached 102 degrees. By noon, it was 140 degrees inside the car even with the windows slightly open. The shelter has the car on display Friday as well.

“A dog does not perspire like a person. It pants,” said Joy Wilson, chief animal control officer for the City of Alexandria. “When the only thing a dog is breathing is hot air, brain damage sets in along with convulsions, seizures and then unconsciousness,” she said, adding that she’s amazed how many calls the center gets even on incredibly hot days about a dog that’s unattended in a car.

Wilson said when the temperature climbs higher than 80 degrees in a car, an animal will become “distressed.” A dog will become uncomfortable, try to climb into the floor boards of the car and its breathing and panting “becomes very elevated.”

She also advises that dog owners during summer hot spells should take their dogs on shorter walks and try to go out only in the early morning and evening.

“Make sure you’re equipped,” she said. “If you take a bottle of water for yourself, make sure you have extra for your dog.”

If anyone witnesses an animal in a hot car, sees an animal in distress or believes that an animal is being neglected or abused, call: 

  • Alexandria Animal Control: 703-746-4774
  • Alexandria Police Non-Emergency: 703-838-4444
  • Fairfax County Animal Control: 703-691-2131 
Adam Gerard July 22, 2011 at 05:04 PM
This is a pretty eye-opening display. We all know it's wrong to leave your dog in a hot car, but to see actual numbers -- 140 degrees!! -- can't make it any more obvious. Also makes me think I might need to take some water for Charlie on our morning walks over the next few days. He was panting pretty hard when we got back into the A/C this morning.
Kelly Colvin July 22, 2011 at 05:22 PM
I can't believe how hot it gets inside the car! I purchased a COOL COAT for my Frenchie, got a lot of looks and comments yesterday from people who thought he was wearing a sweater =) Cool coats are wonderful inventions, I implore everyone to check them out - especially on the flat-faced breeds and any other breed that overheats easily. Mine is made out of a shammy-type material that you soak in water and then place on the animal, it acts as "fake sweat" and keeps them very cool. Don't forget to have some nutracal (get it from your local vet) on hand in case your pet becomes too dehydrated. I've also used a capful of gatorade in his water to help replenish electrolytes! Check out: www.motleymutt.com for the cool coats, which are made to size for your pet.
Kelly Colvin July 22, 2011 at 05:32 PM
Please DO NOT misunderstand my post, it is not safe to leave a dog in a car FOR ANY REASON during the summer even with a cool coat on! :)
Leslie Hagan July 23, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Dogs don't have to be in cars to die from the heat. Places where ground is covered with man-made materials (such as patios) can become dangerously hot, even with shade. Malignant hyperthermia (the inability to regulate body temp, which is what kills animals in hot cars) can strike quickly, especially in older and overweight dogs or certain breeds such as greyhounds who are especially susceptible to it. My own greyhound was suddenly stricken with malignant hyperthermia (not heat induced) and, without any previous symptoms, collapsed in the middle of the street, unable to even crawl to the curb. Fortunately we were within 3 blocks of our vet. It took two vets, working frantically, to reduce his body temp with iv's and ice packs but it was a very close call. My husband and I had to stay up all night with our dog, monitoring his temp and keeping ice packs on him till his temp dropped back to normal. From that moment on, we have never allowed any of our dogs to remain out side in high heat for more than 5 minutes. If the dog is in the yard, put a timer on so you don't forget. Forget jogging with any dog in the summer and try to take them for walks before 10 am or after 5 or so. Most importantly, talk to your vet about caring for your pet in very hot weather. We non-vet pet owners don't always know so much as we think we do.
joy wilson July 25, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Thank you Leslie for all the wonderful information. I am very sorry to hear what happened to your beloved greyhound, however, I am also happy to hear that he recovered from the fast, educated thinking of his owner. I am always trying to come up with ideas for public service announcements to help educate the public. I have a building full of incredible coworkers who strive for these opportunities everyday.

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