The morning forecast had predicted a high of 103 degrees and I could almost see the steam coming off the parking lot from my lunch table by the window. The sun reflected off my Jeep’s windshield which was probably already reaching an oven-like temperature. I thought about my middle school classmate’s science project when he baked cookies on the dashboard of his mom’s car on a summer day like this one.
In the middle of my meal, I noticed a black car parked on the opposite side of the window with a little terrier sitting in the front seat. The 12:00 lunch rush had the line at a standstill and the man in front was ordering several burritos for his entire family— who knew how long it might take the driver to get to the front of the line, get their food, and go back to the car?
While I trying to guess who the driver might be, I heard a woman at the table next to me ask her friend, “Is that dog in the car by himself? He’s gotta be burning up in there.” The family sitting at the table on the other side of me noticed too, and before long a whole group of people were asking around if anyone knew the dog in the car. After nearly the entire restaurant was involved, a woman carrying a take-out bag let us know that her car was still running and the AC was on full blast.
Dogs left in cars who do not receive the same comfort of the AC face possible heatstroke and death within only a few minutes. Heatstroke occurs when a dog’s body becomes overheated and is unable to cool down to a healthy temperature. Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, drooling, vomiting, weakness, and unconsciousness. When untreated, heatstroke is seriously life-threatening.
Many concerned dog lovers immediately have the urge to break the window when they see a dog trapped in a hot car, but the best option is to try to get in touch with the driver first. If we were unable to quickly find the driver, the next step would have been to call the police or fire department. They have the needed tools to quickly open the door and remove the dog from the car, and breaking the window is often not necessary once they are on the way.
Even though many people are aware that a hot car is an extremely dangerous place for a dog, not many people know that even on a slightly warm day the car can still become too hot. Cracking the window also doesn’t make enough of a difference, and a quick errand can be enough time for the dog to become seriously ill. Because dogs do not cool their bodies the same way humans do, they can easily become overheated in temperatures that might not feel as bad to us. If the warm temperature is a bit uncomfortable for a human, it is likely even more uncomfortable for a dog.
Dogs left in hot cars can become very sick with heatstroke in only minutes and could die. Never leave a dog in a hot car, and if you see a dog in a hot car and are unable to find the driver, call the police or fire department.