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Hot Cars: A Reminder That Pets Can’t Wait

It’s sad but true: Every year, pets die trapped inside hot cars. And it doesn’t end with the loss of life for a pet. Pet owners whose animals die in their parked cars can face criminal charges.


While most pet owners know that leaving their pet in a hot car isn’t a good idea, it’s still a prevalent problem. Some common excuses include: “It isn’t that hot out!” or, “I’m just popping in the store for a minute.” Whatever the reason, vets often need to remind pet owners to keep their pups at home or by their side.


Here are a few facts about hot cars you can share with your clients, to make sure this summer is better than the last.


The Science of Why Dogs and Cats Overheat So Quickly


Humans sweat to keep cool, but furry animals don’t have sweat glands. Dogs rely on panting to cool down — breathing out the hot air in their lungs and replacing it with cooler air from their surroundings. When cats get hot, they lick their fur, and the evaporating saliva has a similar effect to sweat. These methods help, but they’re no match for the sweltering temperatures inside a car on a spring or summer day.


Some breeds are more susceptible than others. Labrador retrievers and brachycephalic breeds, like boxers and bulldogs, have an elevated risk of heatstroke. The same goes for obese dogs, and the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that approximately 25% of American dogs are obese.


Why Cracking the Window Isn’t Enough


Cracking the windows barely affects the temperature inside the car.


The temperature inside a stopped car can go up by 20°F in just 10 minutes. And even if it’s not that hot outside, cars absorb heat — on a 70°F day, the temperature inside a car can rapidly reach over 100°F. Here’s a handy chart provided by the AVMA that shows just how much hotter it gets inside a car over a very short period of time.



Studies of military dogs have shown that a core body temperature of 105°F puts dogs at risk of heatstroke and brain damage. What’s more, humidity makes panting less effective — another strike against the stifling conditions inside of a parked car.


Ok, how about leaving the air conditioning running? Even if a pet owner