On a day with outside temperatures topping 80 degrees, animals left inside a vehicle with rolled up windows will be sitting in 110 degrees within 30 minutes.
Within ten minutes the interior temperature car will reach 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
“A lot of people don’t realize how quickly it heats up inside a car,” said Dr. Jim Delker of Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic.
While, “shade is definitely an alternative to nothing,” it is essential to keep the windows open to allow air to flow through the car, Delker said.
Dogs cool off by panting, because they are unable to sweat like humans do to cool down, Delker said. Dogs with short snouts have a harder time panting enough to cool down, he said.
Signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion in dogs begin with excessive panting and pink gums, Delker said. Those responses will eventually evolve into salivating, bloody diarrhea, unsteadiness, drowsiness and turning bright red or purple, he said.
A normal body temperature for a dog is between 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, he said. Once it reaches 103-105 degrees Fahrenheit the problems will become more severe.
“Eventually the animal may collapse and experience seizures,” Delker said.
Dogs can and do die from heat stroke, said Dr. Jim Bowser at Soldotna Animal Hospital.
“Never leave a dog in the car in this (Thursday’s) weather,” Bowser said.
Dogs in Alaska, who haven’t been conditioned for high temperatures, can even overheat during strenuous exercise, he said.
Cooling a dog down once it is overheated requires care.
Don’t use icey water to lower body temperature, Delker said. If the liquid is too cold it will shock the blood vessels, causing them to close and only the skin of the animal will start to cool down, he said.
There won’t be enough blood flow to cool down the dog’s core temperature.
Delker also recommended putting wet towels under a dog’s ears or on their abdomen to start the process.
Relatively moderate daily temperatures, ranging from the 70s to 80s, such as the Kenai Peninsula experienced this week, are when heat exhaustion in animals is seen the most, Delker said. Because the temperatures aren’t extreme, people don’t think a vehicle will become too hot, he said.
Alaskans may be less aware of how quickly a car can heat up because they aren’t used to high temperatures, Delker said.
Kenai Police Officer Scott McBride said he has only responded to roughly four calls concerning animals left in cars in his 22-year career as an officer, but Soldotna Police Officer Mark Berestoff said it is a frequent call his department receives — at least five within the past few weeks.
Parking lots, especially big lots such as those outside Fred Meyer and Safeway are the most common sites responders are referred to, Berestoff said. Alaska State Troopers rarely respond to calls where animals are left in cars because most cases occur within city limits, he said.
Alaska State Trooper Tim Wolff is teamed with K9 Scout and makes up the local K9 unit. The vehicle has a fan installed in the back window of the vehicle to circulate cold air into the backseat where the dog sits.
“It get’s hot back there,” Berestoff said.
If someone spots an incident involving an animal, call the police department and dispatcher will transfer them to Soldotna Animal Control, Berestoff said.
Leaving an animal in extreme heat falls under cruelty, Berestoff said. However, legally a situation must include consistent mistreatment, which is not usually found to be the case when animals are left in cars.
A responder will locate the vehicle, makes sure the animal is not exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion and contact the owner, he said.
“We get calls in the winter too,” Berestoff said. “It’s Alaska, you know, and people have their favorite Malamutes that rides around with them, and stays in the car while they go grocery shopping or have dinner. It’s year-round.”
Reach Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com.