Dog days of summer deadly for pets in cars

Vets remind owners of the dangers of animals in vehicles

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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The sun is out, the clouds are nil -- what better weather to hang out with your favorite pooch? You can bring the dog in the car and go to the park or a local trail for some summer fun. However, a local veterinarian warns of the potential risks to leaving dogs unattended in a hot car.

"You wouldn't lock a toddler in the car and then go shopping or get your hair done," said Dr. Mark Stanhope of the St. Francis Animal Hospital. So don't do the same thing to a pet.

Stanhope said a car's dark interior and windows can mimic the greenhouse effect. On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked will reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes. In 30 minutes the interior will reach up to 120 degrees, according to the Animal Protection Institute. Even when the temperature outside is in the mid-70s, cars heat up quickly, Stanhope said.

Signs of heat exhaustion in a dog include excessive panting or drooling, trouble breathing, seeming agitated or restless, and vomiting or having diarrhea before losing consciousness. A healthy dog's temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees. But when a pet comes to the animal hospital with a 109 degree fever, that's the worst prognosis for recovery, Stanhope says.

Even if the dog survives, heat stroke may cause swelling in the brain.

"There's only so much heating outside the normal range your body can take," Stanhope says.

Dogs can't sweat like humans do. They cool down by panting and drooling. If you have to leave a dog in the car, Stanhope recommends bringing plenty of water, cracking a window and leaving someone in the car with the dog.

"If it's too hot for the human, you can be sure it's too hot for the dog," he said.

Washington state prohibits transporting animals in any manner unsafe to the animal or to the public. Violations are considered a misdemeanor and punishable with a $150 fine, a 60-day stay in the county jail, or both. However, determining what constitutes an unsafe manner is left up to the officer.

An Athena, Ore., man was arrested Wednesday after leaving a dachshund in a hot car for two hours at the Enchanted Forest RV Park in Salem, Ore.

Sandy Stephens, 67, went shopping at New Seasons on 164th Avenue at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Southwest Washington Humane Society volunteer noticed a 45-pound dog with long, white hair sitting in the backseat of a white Ford Escape XLT. The SUV's windows were rolled down a couple of inches in the back. When Stephens returned to her car 25 minutes later, the dog was still inside the vehicle.

She went into Blockbuster and New Seasons to ask if they would page the car owner. New Seasons reminded customers not to leave dogs unattended on hot days and eventually located the owner of the white Escape.

"People say 'oh, it's just a dog.' It's a life," she said.