Protection From Vehicle Heat

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Don't Kill Your Pet!! Protection From Vehicle Heat

Dogs or cats confined in parked vehicles can easily suffer heatstroke, even if parked in the shade and with the windows slightly open. One study showed that when the outside temperature is 78 degrees, a closed car parked in the shade will reach 90 degrees in five minutes and 110 degrees in 25 minutes. Another study when the outside temperature was 90 degrees F., within 15 minutes the temperature inside the car rose to 113 degrees. -- within 30 minutes, the temperature was 122 degrees. After 3 hours, the temperature was 160 degrees F.!

If the animal is healthy and not predisposed to heat stress, it should be able to survive up to 108 degrees F. without suffering undue stress. The dog or cat's pulse and its panting rate generally stay within the normal range. Within 40-50 minutes of being returned to a comfortable environment, its body temperature comes back down to normal -- 101.5 degrees fahrenheit -- without help.

An animal has adaptive mechanisms to help it adjust to changing temperatures, but if the temperature rises too quickly, these mechanisms are unable to help the animal cope with the heat. As the animal over-heats, the high body temperature increases the metabolic rate until it can no longer deliver sufficient oxygen to the tissues.

Lactic acid and other metabolic acids accumulating in body tissue then start to depress the animal's metabolism and eventually the animal is unable to utilize available energy and central nervous system disorders begin to occur. If the high body temperature is not reduced, the animal may develop fluid accumulating on the brain, which causes swelling and further damage to nerve tissues.

Heatstroke develops rapidly. Symptoms of heat exhaustion or stroke include: rapid panting, the animal's tongue gets larger and wider, creating a larger surface area from which evaporation and resulting cooling can occur, the tongue becomes a deep red or purple color, warm dry skin, muscular twitches, a dazed look, glazed eyes, dizziness, vomiting, staring or anxious expression, failure to respond to commands, agitated or irregular behavior, extreme high fever (as high as 110 F.), rapid heartbeat and collapse.

At temperatures above 110 degrees F., damage to the tissues of the respiratory tract, especially the tissues of the nasal passageway will occur. No matter how effective the animal's natural defenses are, they will rapidly weaken if there is no relief from rising temperatures and a lack of freely circulating air. Smaller animals have a slight advantage in coping with the heat, as they can adapt more readily than larger animals.

Remember too -- the sun moves and a vehicle which was originally parked in the shade may find itself either partially or totally in the sun after only a brief period of time.

Puppies, kittens, the elderly, short or 'pushed-in' nosed breeds, over-weight or obese pets, pets recently moved from cool climates, dogs that have been clipped recently, easily excited pets, and pets with a prior history of heat-related stress are most vulnerable to heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate, intensive, and prolonged therapy. The longer the animal has been exposed to excessive temperature, the more severe the condition. Treatment: Immediately remove the animal from the over-heated environment to a shaded and cooler area. Pour or sprinkle cool water on it, but be careful as extremely cold water can put the animal into shock. If possible, place the animal in front of a fan or in an air-conditioned room.

Gentle massage of the legs and body to improve circulation is also useful. Rectal temperature should be taken every 10-15 minutes until the reading is less than 103 degrees F. If the pet is conscious, washing the mouth with cool water will help restore its normal temperature.

The conscious animal may be allowed to drink small mounts of water to begin replacing body fluids lost through dehydration, diarrhea, and vomiting. An unconscious animal may have to be given artificial respiration to avoid permanent brain damage and death.

If water isn't available, apply ice packs to the head and neck and move him to a cooler place at once. Body temperatures of 110 F. and above can be tolerated for only a few minutes before irreversible damage occurs to the central nervous system.

Prompt veterinary attention is important to help ensure complete recovery. Animals recovering from heat stress may appear depressed and lethargic for several days. Occasional twitching of skeletal muscles due to inflammation in the nervous system may be seen. Excessive thirst and frequent urination may be the sign of kidney damage.

An alcohol/water mixture sponged on the affected pet will help conduct heat away from the body. However, if the stress is severe a cool bath in water of about 75 degrees F. is recommended. The animal should not be allowed to drink until its body temperature has been stabilized as 'water intoxication' can result and cerebral edema can result.

Investigations