Primrose Perspective – It’s Getting Hot

Hello friends! I hope everyone has been enjoying this summer heat and keeping cool. Today I wanted to talk about a serious topic – pets in hot cars.

Did you know that under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Act, it is against the law to leave a pet unattended in a parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the animal? Even on a relatively mild day, temperatures in a parked car can become dangerous or even life-threatening in a matter of minutes. My mom (Dr. Sarah Bowyer) tells me that SPCAs across Canada receive hundreds of reports of pets being left in cars every year.

Table of elapsed time and air temperature in a car

Why is that important to know for pets? Well, for us dogs and cats, we cannot respond to heat in the same way that our humans do. First of all, we all have our beautiful hair coats covering our entire bodies. We also do not have sweat glands all over our bodies to help regulate our temperature. Instead, we only have a few in our feet and around our noses. Often, we rely on panting to lose heat. Therefore, we are quite susceptible to heatstroke.

Mom has a special name for heatstroke – hyperthermia. It means elevated core body temperatures above the normal range resulting in heat injury to the internal organs and tissues. It means when we get too hot, our internal organs become damaged, leading to us feeling unwell and possibly dying. That sounds scary! At the end of the day, folks, don’t leave your pet in a hot car, even if it’s just for a few minutes, or it could have terrible consequences.

The common signs of heatstroke include any or all of the following:

  • Panting
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation, restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting Diarrhea (possibly with blood)
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Little to no urine production
  • Coma

If you see any of these symptoms in your pet, it is best to contact your vet (or my mom) right away!

If you believe the dog or cat is in obvious distress, dial 310-SPCA (7722) or 911 for fire or police.
When calling to report an animal in a hot car, please be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Your name and phone number?
  • What is the location, make, model and colour of the vehicle?
  • Is the vehicle running?
  • Is the vehicle parked in the shade?
  • Are the windows down?
  • About how long has the pet been left alone in the vehicle?
  • Is the pet sitting or lying down or panting?
  • How does the animal react to a knock on the window?
  • Is there water in the vehicle for the animal?

If you have any questions, give us a call at 705.566.4085.

Written by: Dr. Sarah Bowyer, DVM