Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

Each summer animal welfare agencies receive many emergency calls to rescue dogs whose lives are endangered because they are left in hot cars. Many well-meaning guardians leave their pets in parked vehicles while they run errands, thinking they will be safe for a short period. Tragically, in hot weather their pets can suffer serious heatstroke and die in a matter of minutes.

“If you do see an animal in a vehicle and are concerned for its safety, please call 911,” said Langley RCMP Cpl. Craig van Herk. “Do not attempt to enter the vehicle.”

The police make it a priority to respond as quickly as possible, but would rather see the problem addressed through education and prevention before an animal is put in a potentially fatal situation.

Each time an officer is dispatched to rescue an animal in a parked car, it stretches resources required for other emergency calls, he noted.

It only takes minutes

The temperature in a parked car, even in the shade with windows partly open, can rapidly reach a level that will seriously harm or even kill a pet. In just minutes, the temperature in a parked car can climb to well over 38° Celsius (100° Fahrenheit).

Dogs have no sweat glands, so they cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws.

On summer days the hot air and upholstery in a vehicle can make it impossible for pets to cool themselves. Dogs can withstand high temperatures for only a very short time – usually just 15 to 20 minutes – before suffering irreparable internal organ and brain damage or death.

Pets will be much happier – and safer – at home, with shade and plenty of fresh, cool water.

Those who must travel with your pets need to keep them cool.

What to do if you see a dog in distress in a parked vehicle:

• Note the licence plate and vehicle information, and ask managers of nearby businesses to page the owner to return to their vehicle immediately;

• Call to report the hot dog in car situation if no owner is found or when animal is suffering symptoms of heatstroke. During daytime, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., call the nearest animal welfare group and in an emergency, call 911 for RCMP attendance.

Note: It is illegal for members of the public to break a window to access the vehicle themselves. Only RCMP and Special Provincial Constables of the BC SPCA can lawfully enter a vehicle to access an animal in distress. SPCA branch staff and volunteers and other animal welfare organizations cannot enter vehicles.

Symptoms of heatstroke in pets:

• Exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting)

• Rapid or erratic pulse

• Salivation

• Anxious or staring expression

• Weakness and muscle tremors

• Lack of coordination, convulsions

• Vomiting

• Collapse

Treatment:

•Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place

• Wet the dogs with cool water

• Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This will cool the blood, which reduces the animal’s core temperature

• Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow, which will inhibit cooling.

• Allow the animal to drink some cool water (or to lick ice cream if no water is available)

• Take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment

(– With files from the Kelowna RCMP)

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