If you think you're doing your dog a favor by bringing him with you on hot summer days, think again.
The inside of the car heats up more quickly than you think, to levels that are dangerous for most dogs. In a series of experiments over the course of the week, I left the car, with the thermometer in it, in various places, in various conditions, to see how quickly it would heat up.
'I just ran into the store to buy one thing'
In the first experiment, I left the car with the windows shut, in the Big Y parking lot in Groton for an hour. It was 83 degrees outside. Inside the car, it was 108.
'But I parked in the shade'
Second, I parked the car in the shade at Town Hall, with the windows cracked. It was 81 degrees outside. In two minutes, the temperature inside the car had jumped to 86 degrees. In 10 minutes, it had climbed to 90 degrees.
'But the windows were cracked open'
Third, I parked the car in front of Troop E, with the windows cracked. It was 83 degrees and overcast.
After five minutes, the temperature had climbed to 86 degrees.
In 10 minutes, the temperature inside the car was 90 degrees.
In 30 minutes, even with the clouds, and the windows open, the temperature inside the car had hit 100 degrees.
After an hour, the temperature outside had climbed to 94 degrees, and the temperature inside the car was 110.
WHILE DOGS HAVE higher body temperatures than we do, the only way they can release heat is through their mouths and the pads of their paws.
Like people, different dogs can tolerate different levels of heat. Older dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke, as are dogs with short noses (pugs, Pekingeses, etc.), dogs with dark coats, and of course, dogs with thick coats. Also, dogs who are overweight or in poor general health.
Signs of heat stroke, according to msnbc.com, are excessive panting or drooling, very fast breathing, a dark or bright red tongue or gums, staggering, or bloody diarrhea or vomiting.
IF YOU SEE A DOG - or any animal - locked in a car in a situation that you think is dangerous, you can ramp up your courage and seek out the owner of the vehicle and explain why he or she should get the dog home, or you can call Livingston Animal Control at 973-535-0532 or the at 973-992-3000.
There are ways to help your pet stay cool at home. Many pets enjoy the breeze from a fan. You can put ice in your pet's water. If your dog is at all amenable, you can run a hose over him or her. The evaporating water will help him feel cool. Likewise, a cool, wet cloth wrapped or draped around his neck will help. If you have your act together, you can freeze the bandana or cloth and put it on your dog just before you take him out walking.
Make sure your dog has plenty of water!