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Don’t leave your pets inside a vehicle

NORTHERN MICHIGAN – Even through Northern Michigan traditionally has a more temperate climate, scorching summer temperatures mean you shouldn’t leave your animals in your vehicle unattended.

It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation. Most people don’t realize how hot it can get in a parked car on a balmy day. However, on a 78 degree day, temperatures in a car parked in the shade can exceed 90 degrees — and hit a scorching 160 degrees if parked in the sun.

Even when the outside air temperature is in the 60s, temperatures inside some vehicles can reach the danger zone on bright, sunny days. So many experts recommend not to leave pets or children in parked cars even for short periods if the temperature is in the 60s or higher.

Rolling down a window or parking in the shade doesn’t guarantee protection either, since temperatures can still climb into the danger zone.

What about leaving the dog in the car with the air-conditioning running? Many people do this, but tragedy can strike — and it has. For example, in 2003, a police dog in Texas died after the air-conditioning in the patrol car shut down and began blowing hot air. The air system’s compressor kicked off because the engine got too hot. Many cars, including modern models with computerized functions, are prone to the same problem.

In August 2004, a North Carolina couple lost two of their beloved dogs, and nearly lost their third dog, as result of a similar failure. They had left bowls of water and ice in the car, and the air-conditioning on, during their shopping trip of less than 30 minutes.

Animals are not able to sweat like humans do. Dogs cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paws. If they have only overheated air to breathe, animals can collapse, suffer brain damage and possibly die of heatstroke. Just 15 minutes can be enough for an animal’s body temperature to climb from a normal 102.5 to deadly levels that will damage the nervous and cardiovascular systems, often leaving the animal comatose, dehydrated and at risk of permanent impairment or death.

Precautions:
  • Leave your dog at home on warm days;
  • On trips with your pet, bring plenty of fresh drinking water and bowl;
  • Don’t let dogs ride loose in pick-up truck beds. The hot metal can burn a dog’s paws, the sun and flying debris can hurt the dog, the dog can accidentally be thrown out of the truck if the brakes are suddenly applied, and the dog can jump out if scared or upon seeing something interesting to chase. Instead, use a crate to create a safer space for the dog if you can’t fit the dog inside the truck cab;
  • Take the dog into the shade, an air conditioned area, or to the vet if you see signs of heat exhaustion, which include restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, dark tongue, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes, dizziness, or lack of coordination. To lower body temperature gradually, give the animal water to drink, place a cold towel or ice pack on the head, neck and chest, and/or immerse the dog in cool (not cold) water. Call your veterinarian.
  • If the dog appears to be suffering, call the police.

– Courtesy of the Human Society.

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