Sylvan Lake vet warns of dangers around leaving pets in parked vehicles

‘It doesn’t have to be very hot outside… for it to become dangerous,’ says Dr. Sandy Jameson

With the hot summer weather blanketing itself over Central Alberta it is important to remember that your vehicle is not a petsitter.

Dr. Sandy Jameson, veterinarian at Sylvan Lake Veterinary Clinic, says on a 32 C day it only takes 10 minutes to reach a life threatening 43 C inside a vehicle.

She referred to a study by San Francisco State University which showed the temperature in a vehicle can rise rapidly.

“They started at 21 C, so a pretty nice day, and after 30 minutes it became 40 C in that vehicle, so not very long,” explained Jameson.

“It doesn’t have to be very hot outside, or what I wouldn’t consider super hot outside, for it to become dangerous for your pet or anybody to be left in a vehicle.”

The study also found cracking the windows of a vehicle did not make a significant change in the rapid increase in temperature.

“If we’re looking at a day like [July 30] we’re looking at 32 C, I think no pet should be left in the vehicle at any point of time,” Jameson said, “if it’s more temperate like 21 C you’re probably OK with 10 minutes, but honestly I wouldn’t want to risk it.”

She explained the breed of dog will impact how it is affected by the heat as the dogs with the more squished in faces, like pugs, are at a higher risk.

These breeds are compromised when it comes to evaporative heat loss because they have less surface area in their mouth and nasal passages for panting, says Jameson.

Underlying diseases or conditions, such as heart disease or obesity, also play a role in a pet’s ability to temperature regulate.

Milder signs of heatstroke in dogs are excessive panting, restlessness and looking a bit stressed, Jameson said. As it progresses the dog could start to drool a lot with the saliva coming out of their nose and mouth, then they could become disoriented.

In severe cases you could see seizures or they can become non-responsive.

“Looking at their gums as well, when they become really bright red or blue/purple-ish that can be a sign that they don’t have adequate oxygen,” added Jameson.

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms an owner can try to cool down their pet by removing them from hot environments and moving them to a cool environment, placing a wet town in their groin or under their armpit region or using a fan to blow air across them.

Jameson says cool tap water is best as ice will constrict the blood vessels in the skin and reduce the conductive heat loss.

“Putting cool water on their paws is pretty helpful too,” she said. “Dog’s don’t hardly sweat at all, but they will through the pads of their feet, so putting cold water on their feet could be quite helpful too.”

Pets should be taken to the veterinary clinic in moderate to severe cases where they can be further assessed and provided the necessary therapy.

If you see a dog in a vehicle and you are concerned about it, the Alberta SPCA recommends calling the police.

Jeff McBeth, staff sergeant at the Sylvan Lake RCMP detachment, says they discourage people from going to the level of damaging someone else’s property such as breaking car windows.

“Matters such as this are best left to those of emergency services, police, fire and EMS,” said McBeth in an email.

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