CHICAGO (CBS) – You might be surprised to learn just how hot it can get in a parked car, even on a relatively mild day with all the windows down.
In one experiment, with an outside temperature of 80 degrees, the reading inside a closed automobile climbed to 109 degrees in just 20 minutes. In an hour, the temp climbed to 123 degrees. A 100 degree reading outside pushed the temp inside the vehicle even higher to dangerous and deadly levels.
“It’s very, very dangerous to leave a dog inside a car, a hot car especially,” says Debra Ferguson, Chicago coordinator for the animal welfare group RedRover.org. “Cars heat up very quickly and the outside temperature can be 60 degrees lower that what it is inside the car.”
RedRover.org sponsors a “My Dog is Cool” campaign each year to educate people about the danger of leaving pets in hot vehicles but Ferguson says the message is still not getting through. So far this year, several cases have been reported across the country including two police dogs who died after being left in hot squad cars.
“People just don’t realize how quickly this can happen. People think they’ll just leave their pets in the car for five or ten minutes. The heat really goes up in the first 5-to-15 minutes the most dramatically, so that short term is too long for a dog.”
At least 14 states including Illinois have laws that specifically address animals left in hot cars. The laws authorize police to enter vehicles and remove animals. Even states without specific laws may consider these cases to be animal cruelty.
What should you do if you see a dog in a hot car?
“If the dog appears to be in distress or if its panting heavily, glossy-eyed or pacing, call 911 and have somebody else go into the store and page whoever owns the vehicle to come out as soon as possible.”
Ferguson says dogs show signs of heat stress very quickly. Signs of trouble include excessive panting, excessive drooling, increased heart rate, trouble breathing, vomiting, seizure and loss of consciousness.
First aid for a hot pet includes providing water to the animal, get their feet wet with cold water and try to keep them as cool as possible until you can transport them to a veterinarian.
Ferguson encourages pet owners to take the “My Dog is Cool” pledge at RedRover.org.
“Take a picture of you with your dog and with your pledge that you will never leave your dog in a hot car.” Ferguson says visitors can also print out fliers to help improve public awareness. “You can slide those under windshields when you see a dog in a car, even if it’s not extreme, just a nice reminder to educate people about the dangers of leaving pets in a car.”
Pet owners are also urged to keep a close eye on animals during hot weather and make sure they always have easy access to fresh water. Bring a bottle of water and a travel bowl for your dog on long walks or during playtime. Provide plenty of shade if your dog stays outside. Limit exercise to early mornings and evenings. Avoid asphalt during daytime heating, as this type of surface gets hot enough to burn canine pads. On a 77 degree day, asphalt can reach 125 degrees and that can cause skin destruction in 60 seconds. An egg can fry in 5 minutes at 131 degrees.