By Janet McAfee
Coachella Valley temperatures reached 100 degrees this week even though it is only March. Your parked car can quickly turn into a death trap for a dog. When the outside weather is only 72 degrees, your car parked in direct sunlight can heat up to 116 degrees inside. Cracking the window open has almost no effect.
You may remember the news story about a Palm Desert veterinarian who left his German Shepherd in his car outside his office. Apparently he got sidetracked and forgot about the animal, and his dog suffered a horrible death from heat stroke. If it can happen to a trained animal care professional, it could happen to a lot of people whose “quick” errand turns into an extended stop.
Dogs love to travel, and they love to be with their humans. While this time of the year might be the best time to leave your dog at home, here are some alternatives to leaving your dog in the car when you travel with him.
Dogs are usually welcome at outdoor patio restaurants, but drive-thrus are always an easy option when you have canine passengers. Almost all Starbucks have drive-thrus now. And you can pick up a burger patty for Benji! Please don’t tie a dog outside a business when you dash in for your coffee, as your dog could be stolen or get loose. Pharmacies and banks have drive-thrus now for your convenience.
More and more restaurants have outdoor patios that welcome your pet dog, and some will even bring a doggie bone along with a water dish. My favorite dog friendly restaurant is Molly’s Super in Upland as they have a special menu for your dog to order his own dish! A lot of the outdoor cafes have misters which make you and your pet more comfortable on warm days in the desert.
More and more businesses will welcome your bringing your dog in with you when you shop. I’ve taken my dog in clothing stores, drug stores, Home Depot, hardware stores, etc. Banks and grocery stores don’t allow pets, unless they are service animals. Make sure your dog goes potty before entering that elegant boutique. During your restroom stops, take the dog in with you.
If you are out running a lot of errands, bring along a friend or neighbor. They can stay with the animal in a running car with the air conditioning on, or take him for a walk while you are busy.
If you absolutely must leave pets in the car while you go elsewhere, leave the car locked with the AC running. Have a spare key to unlock the car upon your return. Keep your trip brief. Thieves have been known to break car windows and steal animals inside. A friend left her two Yorkies inside her unlocked car with the air conditioning running while she went in to a fast food restaurant, and her car was stolen with the dogs inside. After two distraught days, the dogs were miraculously tracked down and returned to her by local law enforcement.
Your dog will be safe and sound if you leave him at home on these hot days. Just like the veterinarian, you might get distracted or delayed for some reason and your animal might pay with his life. One animal control officer commented, “They all say the same thing….I was only going to be gone for two minutes.”
Dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans. Their main way to cool off is through panting, which is not very efficient. When a dog’s body temperature reaches 106 degrees (their normal temperature is 100 degrees), they experience nerve problems, liver damage, and systemic organ failure all within a matter of minutes. Be safe, not sorry, and don’t gamble with your precious pup’s life.