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Car interiors can become fatal quickly

By Eyal Lichtmann

Published 11:50 PDT, Tue July 7, 2020

It’s officially summer, temperatures are rising, and the province has loosened restrictions on mobility. A lot of us are feeling like going places.

But summer can carry a lot of risks as people and animals get outdoors more. One of the greatest risks facing dogs is how quickly the interior of a car can heat up in the summer sun. Even with open windows, car interiors can become deadly quickly.

Many dogs love tagging along even on a short jaunt to the grocery store. At this time of year, though, it’s often best to leave your best friend at home.

If you witness a dog in distress due to heat, it may be tempting to break the car window. This is both illegal and dangerous. Shattering glass could harm the dog and the person involved. It could further traumatize an already upset animal.

If the situation appears to be an emergency, call the RAPS City of Richmond Animal Shelter (during business hours) at 604-275-2036 or the Richmond RCMP (or local police, depending on the location).

Meanwhile, note the license number, type of vehicle and colour. Ask nearby stores to page the owner. If you have a bottle of water in your car—keep one handy at all times in case of emergency—try to offer the dog some water to drink through an open window or even try to pour water on the dog through the window in order to reduce its temperature.

Symptoms of overheating in a dog include heavy panting, excessive or erratic heart rate, salivation or drooling, anxiety, staring, tremors, weakness and lack of coordination, convulsions, vomiting and collapse.

If you see a dog experiencing any of these symptoms, and are able to get them out of the car, take the following steps: Transfer the animal to a cooler location, ideally in the shade. Encourage the dog to drink water. Pour water on the dog—but do not use ice, as this can affect blood flow and counterintuitively prevents cooling. Fan the dog with a magazine or anything close to hand. This encourages evaporation that cools the blood and reduces the dog’s core temperature. 

Get the dog to a veterinarian quickly for assessment and additional treatment. (Consider contacting the RAPS Animal Hospital at 604-242-1666)

Consider keeping a pet emergency kit in your car, with a bottle of water, a small bowl and a handheld battery-powered fan, which you can buy at a dollar store.

Let’s make this summer healthy and safe for all.

Eyal Lichtmann is CEO and executive director of the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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