A pet should never be left in a vehicle in the sun, even if the temperature is mild and the windows are open. Heatstroke can cause organ failure and death. The CSU James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital has already seen three cases of dogs left in hot cars in recent weeks. Thanks to quick veterinary care, all three dogs survived.
In a matter of minutes, a dog may become overheated while exercising, playing or just by being left in the heat with no water or shade. Heat exhaustion can quickly become a life-threatening heatstroke.
Always provide access to fresh water and shade – especially in the heat of the day.
Obesity and pre-existing medical conditions put pets at much higher risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Puppies, elderly dog, and dogs with dark-colored or long-haired coats are more at risk, and flat-faced breeds, including bulldogs and pugs, are more susceptible to overheating.
If you are concerned about a pet (or person) that is locked in a hot car, contact your local law enforcement. The Colorado legislature passed a law in 2017 that provides immunity from prosecutions for civilians who break into a locked vehicle to rescue a dog, cat, or at-risk person.
The CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital is open 24/7 for emergencies, 300 W. Drake Road, Fort Collins, (970) 297-5000.
What to do if an animal is suffering from heatstroke
- Move the animal to shade or a cooler environment
- Provide cool, fresh drinking water
- Cool the pet down with water or covered ice packs on the belly only
- Do not force-feed water if the pet cannot drink freely on its own
- Do not submerge the pet, this may cause further harm when temperature regulation is impaired
- Do not cover, crate, or otherwise confine the pet
- Even if your pet is responding well to cooling treatments, it is imperative that you contact (and go to) an emergency veterinarian
Signs of heat exhaustion
- Restlessness and agitation
- Heavy panting and rapid breathing
- Excessive drooling that then turns to thick tenacious saliva
- Bright red gums and tongue
- Dry tacky gums and mucous membranes
- Weakness or struggling to maintain balance
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Body temperature of 104 degrees or greater
- Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)
- Confusion or disorientation
Signs of heatstroke
- White or blue gums
- Labored, noisy breathing
- Frantic panting or wheezing
- Rapid heart rate and drooling
- Uncontrollable urination and or defecation
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Lethargy or unwillingness to move
- Lack of coordination