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Dogs in Hot Cars: What to Do

Posted By SLCo Animal Services
May 28, 2020

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dogs in hot cars

You pulled into a stall at the grocery store, you notice a dog in the car, alone. What do you do? Here's what Salt Lake County Animal Control Officers recommend.

First DO NOT break the window! Utah does not have a good Samaritan law at this time that protects you from breaking that window.

What to look for: Is the dog excessively drooling/panting, listless, unresponsive?

Call Dispatch ASAP! 801-743-7000. Outside our service area dial 911. 

Is the car parked in the shade with the windows down, and the dog appears to be in physical distress? 

Call Dispatch 801-743-7000.

Give the license plate number and make/model to the dispatcher. They will pass that information onto the Animal Control Officer. When the officer arrives, and if the car has left, they will be able to track down the driver and educate them on the dangers of leaving their pet in the car. Video and photos of the pet in duress can be helpful to the officers case. 

What not to do: Don't take your dog with you to run errands and leave them in a car for a "few minutes." A few minutes is all it takes to kill your dog or cause massive internal damage. We invite you to read more about what happens to your dogs body and why they overheat so fast. It's a terrible way to die, and we wouldn't wish it upon any dog. 

Here's info from IFLScience:

If a dog’s internal temperature goes above 41°C (105.8°F) it is at risk of heatstroke, which only 50% of dogs survive. Some breeds are more susceptible than others – large dogs, dogs with short faces such as bulldogs and boxers, and overweight or long-coated dogs are most at risk – but every dog has the potential to suffer from heatstroke. It doesn’t have to be boiling hot for this to happen either – when it’s 22°C, (71.6°F) outside, the inside of a car can easily reach 47°C within an hour(116.6°F).

The science behind heatstroke

When a dog starts to overheat, it will lose heat by increasing its heart rate and opening up the capillaries in the skin. It will also pant to lose heat through the mucus membranes in its mouth and nose, and may lick its body to cool it by evaporation.

Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat. And as the heat increases, bodily functions start to break down. The dog enters a vicious spiral where the heart starts to fail and pushes out less blood – which means the heat cannot be carried away – its blood pressure drops, blood pools in the organs and the body goes into shock.

When a dog’s internal temperature reaches 44°C (111.2°F) its circulation will fail, which causes kidney failure, lack of oxygen in the brain, and internal bleeding. At this point, even if you can reverse the physical damage and save the dog’s life, it’s likely to have suffered brain damage, which can result in personality changes, loss of sensory perception and cognitive problems. So it’s not just a case of getting a bit too hot and not being able to cope. It’s total body breakdown.

And can lead to death.