BC SPCA have launched a new “No Hot Pets” campaign to remind people of the dangers of leaving animals in a hot vehicle.
Less than halfway into the summer season, the BC SCPA has responded to 642 calls about dogs left in hot cars already this summer.
“Every year there is at least one call where a pet has died before help can arrive. It is heartbreaking because it is a horrible way for a pet to die and it is devastating for their guardian,” said Lorie Chortyk, general manager of communications for the BC SPCA.
Chortyk said many people don’t realize just how quickly a situation can become dangerous for their pets.
What happens when a dog is left in a hot car
Dogs can only cool off by sweating from their nose and paws. When they’re stuck inside a car surrounded by hot seats and other equally warm objects, it makes it even more difficult for them to release any sweat at all.
With an average body temperature of 39°C, a short time in a hot environment can quickly raise their temperature to 41°C which can potentially lead to the risk of brain damage and even death.
And it doesn’t help to leave the A/C running, so even cars that have signs like “the A/C is on. He has water and is listening to his favourite music” still pose a risk to the animal inside them.
“Dogs don’t have sweat glands like people do and can only release heat from their bodies by panting or through the pads of their paws,” said Chortyk. “It doesn’t take long, even if a vehicle is parked in the shade with windows partially open, for a pet to suffer severe heatstroke.”
As part of its No Hot Pets campaign, the BC SPCA is offering free car decals to help raise awareness of the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars. They’re also offering posters, flyers, and other educational materials that animal lovers can distribute in their community.
When you see an animal left in a car by themselves, check for symptoms of heatstroke.
These include 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 or vomiting, and collapse.
Situations where you can move the animal out of the vehicle
If you’re able to safely and legally move the animal out of the vehicle, here’s what to do next:
- Move the animal to a cool, shady place.
- Wet the animal with cool water. Do not apply ice as this will constrict blood flow and discourage cooling.
- Fan the animal to promote evaporation. This cools the blood, helping to reduce the animal’s core temperature.
- Allow the animal to drink some cool water (or to lick ice cream if no water is available).
- Take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment.
What to do if you can’t move the animal out of the vehicle
If the vehicle is parked, note down the license plate, colour, make and model, and get the managers of a nearby business to try and page the owner to return to their car right away.
If that fails call your local animal control agency, police, RCMP or the BC SPCA hotline at 1-855-622-7722 as soon as possible for assistance.
And if a window has been cracked open, the BC SPCA recommends trying to give water to the pet or use a “battery-powered fan from a dollar store” to circulate air.
Don’t break the window because…
For a lot of people who mean well, their first instinct is to break the glass window to get the dog out of the car. Besides the fact that only RCMP, local police, and BC SPCA Special Constables are legally allowed to enter a vehicle in that manner, you breaking a glass window might just make things worse.
Glass shards strewn along the seat of the vehicle can lead to pieces in paws and fur and could end up cutting the animal in the process. So you risk harming yourself (physically and legally), and could also be putting the animal in further danger of injury.
To sign up for your free No Hot Pets Decal visit spca.bc.ca/nohotpets.