By Dr. John Koch, DVM
Question: While shopping the other day, I saw a black dog locked in a car with the windows just barely open. The temperature on the bank thermometer read over 100 degrees. The dog was obviously uncomfortable. I was seriously thinking of breaking the windows of the car when someone came, got into the car and drove away. What should a person do in such a situation? In case this ever happens again, how do you treat a dog that is overheated?
Answer: If on a hot day you find a dog in a locked car and it is struggling to breathe, call the police. Bashing in someone's window could cause you to be the one with legal difficulties. By calling the police and explaining the situation, rescue people should be there in a short time.
A dog locked in a car is a problem even when the temperature is not that extreme. An outdoor temperature of 80 degrees will cause the temperature in a car to reach 120 degrees in 30 minutes. With outside temperatures in the upper 90s, as they have been in recent days, the inside of a closed car can reach 120 degrees in three minutes.
Dogs that are overheated have difficulty breathing and pant excessively. Their gums and tongues are often purple because of poor oxygen profusion. They may have rectal temperatures higher than 110 degrees. At these temperatures, it does not take long to cook the brain and internal organs. When the brain and internal organs are destroyed, life ceases.
If you see a dog that you think is overheated, take prompt action to lower its body temperature. Use a garden hose to run cool water over it. Better yet, put it into a tub and submerse it in water. Add ice and keep adding ice until the dog's breathing slows to a normal pace. When the dog begins to shiver, remove it from the water.
As with most problems, the best cure is prevention. Don't ever leave a dog in a parked car in the summer. Don't do it for even the shortest period of time.
Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau-area veterinarian.