As temperatures rise this summer, it is imperative to remember the number one rule of pet safety: NEVER leave your pet inside a hot car. A quick trip inside the grocery store or post office may seem innocuous enough, but temperatures inside a car will skyrocket to dangerous levels within minutes of walking away from your oven-on-wheels. And that’s not hyperbole, car interiors can really get hot enough to cook an egg or even bake a batch of cookies—even with the windows down. It takes only minutes for your comfy air-conditioned car to turn into a death trap.
So, how does this happen? Well, consider the environment inside of your vehicle as going through the same process as what is going on with global climate change, except on a smaller scale. That’s right, the greenhouse effect is what causes the exponential rise in temperature. As the sun’s rays enter the car through the windows, the energy is absorbed by the various solid objects in the car, such as seats, steering wheel, and dashboard. These heated objects in turn heat the air molecules in the car, which are unable to effectively escape the car’s interior.
These conditions are dangerous enough for humans, but due to the way a dog releases heat, it becomes even more so. In heated times, sweat works to cool down humans by using their body’s heat to convert from liquid to gas form, and then taking that heat as it evaporates, effectively leaving the body with less heat and thus cooling the body. As you may well know, dogs largely lack the sweat glands that allow humans to cool off directly from the skin via evaporation, so instead, they use panting as way to get moisture and heat from their lungs onto their tongue which then evaporates, leaving them that much cooler. Of course in a hot box, all that evaporated water vapor increases the humidity in the vehicle, making it take longer for moisture to leave the body.
All these factors make a hot car a severely unsafe environment for your beloved pet. It doesn’t take long before a dog can succumb to heatstroke and organ failure. If you do plan on taking car trips with your pet, make sure to provide them plenty of water, shade, and never leave them locked in the car!