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Hot cars can be deadly for pets

Recipe for disaster: veterinarian Lucy Richardson writes that heatstroke can happen very quickly — even with the air conditioner on (Photograph by Tara Wray)

Summertime is here. The temperatures are heating up and humidity is on the rise. So, it’s a great time to remind you about the effects of hot cars on our pets. A car can become dangerously hot within 15 minutes, and when you add the fur coat and inability to sweat that our dogs are dealing with, it’s an easy recipe for disaster.

Every summer in Bermuda without fail, I have had to try to rescue dogs from the effects of heatstroke, so come on pet owners, let this be the year that we all take prevention seriously and understand that our pets are not like us and do not respond to heat in the same way we do.

There are several stages to overheating, starting with excessive panting with a wide-open mouth and extended tongue, and progressing quickly to very red gums, hypersalivation, lethargy, collapse and in some cases death.

The earlier you recognise the signs of heatstroke, the more chance you have to intervene and save your dog. But, as with so many things, prevention is better than cure in this instance.

So, here’s how to prevent overheating in the car.

First, decide if your dog actually needs to go in the car at all. Many times, they would prefer to stay home and catch up on some of the 16 to 18 hours of sleep they need in every 24-hour period. (That’s at least twice what you need).

If they have already had a nice early-morning walk, they would be better off staying home than risking heatstroke.

If a car ride is essential the car should always be cooled down before your pet gets in.

Taking a few minutes to cool down the car’s inner temperature will make your dog much happier and more willing to relax and enjoy the journey.

Do not leave your pet in the car without the air conditioning running for any amount of time. Heatstroke happens fast and can be deadly. It’s not worth the risk.

After a nice walk, your dog is already hotter than at rest, so putting them into a hot car will exasperate the overheating and can cause life-limiting damage.

Walking your dog early in the morning or late at night will reduce the heat they are dealing with and help to keep them comfortable. Always have plenty of iced water on hand and give them access to it regularly.

Pay close attention to your pet when exercising or in the car and make sure you spot the first signs of overheating.

Even if the temperature is comfortable for you, your dog may be struggling and need to cool down. If they stop suddenly on a walk let them rest in the shade for a while with some water to drink until they have cooled down.

Always be over cautious in the car, you want your pet to be able to enjoy the summer without the risk of heatstroke.

• Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. She is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda

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Published June 06, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated June 06, 2024 at 7:23 am)

Hot cars can be deadly for pets

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