With a warm season ahead, Auckland Council’s Animal Management team is calling on owners to take extra care when travelling with their pets in the car this summer.
It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation. On a day when it’s 20 degrees outside, the temperature in a car parked in the shade with the windows down can reach over 39 degrees within ten minutes and can rise to a deadly 49 degrees in less than half an hour. With summer here, owners need to be mindful of the added dangers, says Tracey Moore, Manager of Auckland Council Animal Management.
“The risks for animals—most commonly dogs—in hot vehicles should not be under-estimated. Our canine friends don’t sweat like humans, instead they pant to dissipate heat and cool themselves,” she says.
Councillor Cathy Casey, a registered responsible dog owner and Chair of the council’s Community Development and Safety Committee, says she would be “devastated” if a few moments’ carelessness on her part were to cause distress or even death to either of her much-loved family companions.
“My two dogs travel with me in the car on weekends. I make sure I always have water on hand and take Mitzi and Pat with me whenever I leave the vehicle,” she says.
Animals that have only overheated air to breathe inside hot cars can collapse, suffer brain damage and possibly die of heatstroke. Just 15 minutes can be enough for an animal's body temperature to climb from a normal 38.5 degrees to a dangerous level, causing irreversible organ damage.
Signs of heat exhaustion include restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, dark tongue, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes, dizziness, or lack of co-ordination.
To lower body temperature gradually, give the animal water to drink, place a cold towel or ice pack on the head, neck and chest, or immerse the dog in cool (not cold) water. You should then call a veterinarian.