Our Pets and the Dangers of Overheating

Vehicle Temps

        How often do you sit in the car with the windows up while filling up your gas tank in the summer? Not very often, right? Why not? Because it is too hot. How often do you leave your pet in the car while you run to the pharmacy, bank, or market? Many of us view our pet as part of the family and he in turn loves to go on a car ride, but leaving your pet alone in the car is too dangerous during the hot summer months. While you may crack the windows and think to yourself you are just going to run in, grab a few items and breeze through the self checkout, your pet is trapped in a sauna without the ability to sweat and covered in a layer of fur!

         In response to heat related deaths San Francisco University researchers conducted a vehicle heat study by monitoring the inside temperature of a parked car on days the outside temperature ranged from 72F° to 96F°. In their conclusions they noted that on average the car’s temperature raised 19F° within 10 minutes and 34F° within 30 minutes. They also noted that, contrary to belief, cracking the windows had little effect. Even at 82°, which is a cool day for a Tennessee summer, the inside of your car can reach 109° within minutes. This is because a closed car traps the sun’s heat and imitates a greenhouse. The windows of a car are transparent to the sun’s short wave radiation which heat up objects the waves hit such as dashboards and seats. In reaction, the objects emit long wave radiation throughout the car, heating the entire interior. In layman’s terms this boils down to the sun heats up the surfaces inside a car and the surfaces in turn heat up to air inside the car, kind of like a greenhouse. When a pet is left in a car he is exposed to the sun’s short waves and is surrounded by the heated air.

         The normal body temperature of a dog ranges from 100.5°F to 102.5°F and anything 103°F or above is reason for alarm. When a dog’s temperature reaches 103F° he is at risk of suffering brain, heart, liver, nerve damage, and distress. If your pet’s body temperature raises anywhere over 107°F he will sustain permanent brain damage and can potentially die in your car within the time it takes you to grab a bite to eat.

         Often people follow the train of thought that pets are animals and animals survive in the wild so they are resilient, true but a solar powered slow cooker, (your car on a summer day) is not part of the wild. Because dogs do not sweat and depend on panting and their paw pads to cool down they are especially susceptible to overheating.

         According to weather.com the average highs for Knoxville’s summer months are in the mid to high 80s and this year already yielded some unseasonably hot days reaching the 100s.

         If you want to treat your pet to a car ride or have them tag along, opt for the drive-thru, visit pet friendly stores, or make a special trip to the park. Your pet will appreciate it! And if you see a pet left in a car on a hot day call animal control or inform the nearest store or restaurant manager.

We would like to give thanks to Katie Crossen from HSTV for this article!

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