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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Features July 2018 Issue

Overheated Cars, by the Numbers

Your dog + alone in a hot car = not good.

dogs die in hot cars warning sign

© AnnekaS | Bigstock

A sign found in a parking lot says it all.

The number of dogs who died in overheated parked cars during the last week of May 2015: 11, according to Veterinary Pet Insurance.

The number of dogs who die each year from being left in hot, parked cars: hundreds, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Okay, so now you totally get it, but what if you see a dog trapped in a stranger’s car on a summer (or even late spring, or early fall) day?

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) makes it clear that this is one of those instances where you can actually help rather than simply lament the poor dog’s situation. It recommends that you:

-Take down the car’s make, model, and license plate number.

-Ask managers or security guards of nearby businesses to make an announcement to find the car’s owner. A lot of people with dogs are not cavalier about their pet’s safety. They simply are unaware of the danger and will return to their car right away once they are alerted to the situation.

-If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police, or call Animal Control, and wait by the car for them to arrive. In several states, leaving a dog in a hot car is prohibited, and good Samaritans who rescue pets in visible distress are granted immunity. Know the laws in your area so you can be sure to follow any steps required.

Once an overheated dog is removed from a car, HSUS points out that the following emergency steps should be taken:

1. Gradually lower his body temperature by sprinkling cool water on him. Do not soak him in cool or cold water because his temperature could drop too low.

2. Place cool, wet towels over the back of his neck, in the armpits, and in the groin area. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Direct a fan on the wet areas to speed evaporative cooling.

3. You may offer fresh, cool water if the dog is alert and wants to drink. Do not force the pet to drink.

4. Get the dog to a veterinarian immediately. Especially if the dog is already quite sick, the doctor may be able to introduce life-saving measures that you won’t have at your disposal.

Comments (3)

I'd appreciate advice on how to break the car window in the safest way possible, especially for the dog-loving civilian who happens upon a dog in these circumstances and doesn't have a baseball bat nearby. Given how rapidly a dog succumbs to extreme temperatures, only the speediest Animal Control or police response will save him/her.

Posted by: Barbara G | August 19, 2019 1:40 PM    Report this comment

Does anyone know where to get the warning sign that is shown here?

Posted by: Judy and Sarge | July 2, 2018 1:18 PM    Report this comment

Sadly, the number of deaths is most likely 10 times or more the reported cases. People are not going to admit they left their dog in the car and he died. I have called the police several times when I have seen dogs left in cars on hot days and will continue to do so. Maybe if they start getting fined, they will stop doing it. It really should be a law.

Posted by: Judy and Sarge | July 2, 2018 1:16 PM    Report this comment

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