Beat the heat: As summer approaches, don’t leave pets in hot cars

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CLAY COUNTY – Can you believe the first “official” day of summer is just a month away? Based on current temperatures, I think it’s probably safe to predict that August will be a scorcher. But as summer approaches, it’s important to remember how the heat can affect our furry friends, too.

It’s common for my many people to bring their dogs along for the car ride, but when is it too hot for us to leave our dogs in the car? I think a good rule of thumb, based on the temperature, is to consider if you would leave your child in the car without air conditioning for the same amount of time as you are leaving your pet.

However, as a faculty member of the University of Florida, I turned to the science and data to provide you with some research-based information on how heat can affect our furry friends. For example, if your vehicle is a cool 70 degrees when you exit, it only takes approximately 20 minutes for the temperature to rise to nearly 100 degrees.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average body temperature of a dog is 101-to-102 degrees - so cracking the windows may not provide enough relief to keep animals from overheating. In fact, AVMA studies show that a parked car with the windows cracked heats up at almost the exact same rate as a car with the windows rolled up.

I know that we all have those, “well, I’ll only be a minute” or “I’ll park over here under this tree” moments, but let’s be realistic; how many times has that minute innocently turned into 30 minutes because we ran into someone we knew or got sidetracked? Also, if you are parking under the only tree in the parking lot, chances are it is just as hot there as the rest of the lot.

In the past few years, I have noticed more pet owners leaving their engine on to provide air conditioning for their pets inside the vehicle. In theory, this sounds like a remedy to the overheating concern, but in reality, there are hundreds of reported cases where the air conditioner didn’t provide enough airflow or ventilation for the animals.

I’m not saying this approach isn’t helpful, but after watching news segments of families who have lost their pet because this approach didn’t provide enough ventilation, or the dog flipped the vehicle’s cooling system off was personally devastating.

So, what can you do to avoid overheating your pet when you go to the store or out to eat? Your best option is to leave your pets at home or find dog-friendly establishments. There are some great phones apps that can provide information on dog-friendly shops and restaurants. One that I have used before is bringfido.com.

We all know it is hot in Florida during the summer. We all know it is dangerous to leave our pets unattended in parked cars. I hope this brief snapshot of the science convinces you to keep your pets at home or find dog-friendly places during the summer.

For more information on this topic or Clay County 4-H please contact the Clay County Extension office at (904) 284-6355. UF/IFAS an equal opportunity institution.

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