Serious Tips Dogs Want You to Know About Summer Vehicle Safety

Things to remember and what to do if the worst happens

By the Get Leashed Health team

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As summer temperatures peak, vehicle safety for pets becomes ever more critical, as being left in a car for even just a few minutes can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening for dogs. That’s why we were stoked to see this issue get some real media attention, when NFL star, Tyrann Mathieu, teamed up with PETA to send a message that really hits home. Unable to sit through just 8 minutes of the 10 it takes to kill an animal, this video depicts the horrific conditions a pet in trouble goes through if left in a hot car.

We assume that many dogs are left in cars simply by accident. They fall asleep and their owner runs into a grocery store to grab something, absent-mindedly forgetting their pet was with them. Because it’s such a commonly terrible occurrence, Tennessee has recently declared it legal to break into a car to save a dog’s life. We can’t imagine being upset if a good citizen smashed our car window to save our pet, but we’re happy people who do so are protected and hope to see this law become a trend.

If we were dogs, we’d want everyone – dog owner or not – to know a few simple things that could save our lives:

  • If you have your dog in the car, do something to help remember that he’s there, like leaving your purse or wallet in the back seat or trunk.
  • Don’t chance it. Leaving the car in the shade with the windows down, or even running with the air conditioning on, isn’t acceptable. Shade moves and AC can fail. It’s much better to take your dog out and tie him outside in a shady spot.
  • More and more stores are pet friendly. If they’re not, suggest they leave a water station outside and install tie poles.

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What to do in the worst-case scenario:

Okay, you’ve made a big mistake and left your pet in a hot car for a few minutes. Or perhaps you’ve come across someone else’s sweltering pup.

If you’ve locked your keys inside, use your best judgment but remember this: windows are easily replaced, love is not. If it’s not your car, yell for help and get someone to run into the nearest store to describe the car and get the store management to make an announcement. Chances are someone forgot and will come running. If a minute or two passes, or if the dog is exhibiting signs of heatstroke such as seizures or stupor, it’s time to make a decision. Note that breaking a window could be a criminal offense (until the Tennessee trend catches on) — but as pet lovers, we know there’s only one real option, because no dog deserves to suffer that way.

Emergency treatment for dogs from the SPCA

If a dog shows symptoms of heatstroke follow these instructions:

  • Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place.
  • Wet the dog with cool water.
  • Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This process will cool the blood, which reduces the dog’s core temperature.
  • Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow which will inhibit cooling.
  • Allow the dog to drink some cool water.
  • Take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment.