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At just 72 degrees, the temperature inside a car can rise to more than 100 degrees in a short amount of time, making it dangerous to leave pets in vehicles, warned Galax Animal Control Officer Veronica Bryant.
“As warm weather approaches, I want to make people aware of the dangers of leaving pets in cars, because it can get hot very quickly,” she said. “Some aren’t aware that dogs can get heat stroke like we do.”
Bryant averages about 15 to 25 calls per year on animals that are in danger due to being left in parked cars.
A couple of weeks ago, one dog was on the verge of dying, she said. Even though it was only about 75 degrees outside, the dog’s temperature had risen to 108 degrees in four hours of being in the vehicle. A normal temperature for this dog would have been 99 degrees, she noted.
Fortunately, the animal was saved. However, if the dog had been left in the vehicle a few minutes longer, it may not have survived, she said.
Within an hour, a dog can start gasping for air, and the bigger the animal, the greater the chance of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Heat stroke is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Once the signs of heat stroke are detected, there is little time before serious damage or even death can occur, she said.
Once the dog’s temperature reaches 106 degrees, damage to the body’s system and organs may become irreversible.
Even if the window is cracked, the heat inside of a vehicle multiplies. Never leave an animal in a parked car, Bryant said. “Pets should be left at home, unless the owner is taking the dog to the park, to the vet or obedience classes. If you love your animal, leave it at home.”
If a pet is harmed, the owner can be charged with cruelty to animals — a felony offense if the animal dies.
“The number of animals being left in cars is getting greater,” she said. “As pet owners, we have to be responsible.”
It’s important to know the warning signs of heat stroke — vigorous panting, lethargy or collapsing.
If a pet owner suspects heat stroke, take immediate action. Get the animal in the shade, place wet rags on the body, get the animal some water, then call or visit the vet right away.
Bryant said when she sees dogs left in vehicles, she leaves reminders on car doors warning of the dangers.
“Sometimes people get mad when I do this,” she said. “But I just want to warn about the dangers of heat stroke. Sometimes heat stroke can cause death or irreversible damage, costing pet owners thousands of dollars.”
This year, Bryant has received three calls about animals being left in cars. “And the summer hasn’t even started yet,” she said. “This is something that can be prevented.”
If a dog is kept outdoors, it should have shelter in a shaded area to escape the heat and should have plenty of water, she said.