Heatstroke: Do Not Leave Dogs Alone in the Car

Every summer, numerous dogs die in cars – from heatstroke and the ignorance of their owners! Just “just” have a coffee or go shopping… But during this time, the dog locked in the car suffers from heat pain, which often ends in his death. Even if the window is opened a crack, the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rise many times over within a few minutes. This causes panic in the caged dog and can quickly lead to heatstroke. Read here how to prevent heatstroke in your dog and how to react in an emergency!

Heatstroke, what is it?

Heatstroke is a life-threatening, serious condition that can affect both humans and animals. Heatstroke is caused by overheating the body so that the body’s own self-regulation by means of water intake and sweating is not sufficient. As a result of the excessively high body temperature, multi-organ failure, and circulatory shock occur.

A distinction is made between heat stroke, which is caused by excessive outside temperatures, and heat stroke, which occurs as a result of extreme physical exertion (e.g. running next to the bicycle). In both cases, the dog’s body cannot emit enough heat to the outside. The result is circulatory failure and organ damage.

Not a big feel-good window in summer for dogs

Dogs are heat-sensitive animals and only have a small temperature comfort window. Outside temperatures of 22 to 25 °C (even without solar radiation) cause many dogs to reduce their physical activities. They prefer to lie in shady places and like to stay indoors on cool floors.

Dogs can hardly sweat. They have very few and inadequate body sites with sweat glands. This includes only the pads of the paws and the nose. Dogs regulate their body temperature exclusively by panting and drinking water.

When panting, the saliva and the liquid on the mucous membranes evaporate and thus lower the dog’s body temperature. This system only works if the dog has enough water at its disposal, which it absolutely needs to moisten the mucous membranes. To make matters worse, some dogs’ fur also traps heat. At a temperature of around 28 °C, the dog’s fragile “cooling system” breaks down.

Why is the inside of a parked car so dangerous for dogs?

Even if the parked car is not initially in direct sunlight, panting is no longer enough to regulate the dog’s body temperature from 25 °C. In addition, the interior temperature of the vehicle rises disproportionately quickly – within a few minutes to 30 °C and more. The dog also lacks the water to keep the mucous membranes moist.

Dog breeds at risk

Those breeds that have thick or long fur suffer particularly badly, as do heavy dogs. So-called Nordic breeds such as Huskies with their dense undercoat and heavy breeds such as St. Bernards are particularly affected. Dogs with short muzzles and atrophied airways, known as brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, Pekingese, Boxers, English, and French Bulldogs, suffer particularly badly in warm weather. They have muzzles that are much too small and nostrils that are narrowed so that they inhale too little cooling air and have too little mucous membrane surface to ensure adequate heat dissipation.

Don’t look away: This is how you act correctly!

Especially in summer, pay attention to whether dogs are locked in parked cars. Don’t be afraid to act quickly and efficiently, because often every minute counts for the struggling dog.

Here’s what to do if a dog is locked in an overheated car:

  • For example, if it is a supermarket parking lot, page the owner of the vehicle immediately.
  • Draw the attention of other passers-by to the dog.
    If possible, document the situation, for example with a photo.
  • If the owner returns in time, educate them frankly about the dangers of car interior heat.

If the animal cannot be freed from the car within a few minutes, call the local police immediately and make the urgency clear on the phone! In an emergency, the car window can also be smashed. In the case of particularly serious offenses against the animal and justified assumption of poor animal handling, you are free to report the dog owner.

How to help an overheated dog?

  • Gently cool the dog down, for example with a damp towel (T-shirt), and immediately take it out of the car and into the shade!
  • Since the animal is severely dehydrated, it urgently needs water at the right temperature – never cold liquids or ice!
  • Moist compresses on the legs and paws help: the evaporation of the water helps to lower the body temperature.
  • If the dog does not react and can no longer drink itself, it must go to the vet immediately so that the missing liquid can be supplied via infusions.
  • If the dog does not react and can no longer drink itself, it must go to the vet immediately so that the missing liquid can be supplied via infusions.
  • Veterinarians advise: come to the practice immediately, even with an overheated, stressed dog. Organ damage and stroke threaten.
  • A dog suffering from heatstroke is always a veterinary emergency and should be taken to the vet as soon as possible!

Not only in the car, but also on walks in the hot season, it can quickly become dangerous for dogs. Running next to the dog owner who is cycling or jogging should be taboo, as here too there is a risk of heatstroke for the overworked dog.

Even at an air temperature of 25 °C, the asphalt and dark pavements heat up to temperatures of over 40 °C, which damages the sensitive paw pads! In such a case, the dog must quickly leave the dangerous pavement or be carried. During this time, it is best to plan walks and sports activities on routes with water access (river or lake) and/or go for a walk in the early morning and late evening hours.

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