The difference between life and death can be just a few minutes.
Experts advise pet owners never to leave an animal in a parked car — not even for a minute, not even with the windows open, not even with the air-conditioner running.
Animal control officers can issue a $50 citation to pet owners for leaving an animal in a hot car. Under Idaho code, it can also be a misdemeanor offense.
“Our No. 1 call in the summer is dogs left in cars,” Kootenai County Animal Control officer Colton Grytness said.
On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 100 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to research published by San Jose State University. Pets can suffer brain damage or die from heat stroke or suffocation.
“If the sun’s hitting the car, it can warm up quick,” Grytness said.
Signs of heat stroke in dogs include heavy panting, excessive drooling, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, unsteadiness or staggering, bloody vomit or bloody diarrhea, nose bleeds, a deep red or purple tongue and bleeding gums, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
If a dog exhibits signs of heat stroke, seek veterinary care as soon as possible, even if the dog appears to be improving. Call ahead of your arrival if possible.
In the meantime, the Humane Society recommends moving the dog to a cooler area. Gradually lower the dog’s body temperature by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck and around the armpits, paws, ear flaps and groin. Alternatively, sprinkle cool but not cold water over the dog.
Offer cool water if the dog is alert and wants to drink, but do not force the dog to drink.
High humidity makes it hard for dogs to cool themselves through panting, which can cause their body temperatures to rise to dangerous levels. A dog’s temperature should not get higher than 104 degrees, according to the Humane Society. If it does, the dog should be treated for heat stroke.
Grytness said people should feel free to contact animal control if they see an animal in distress or if they’re unsure whether or not an animal in a parked car is all right. Animal control officers will come to the scene and determine what action (if any) should be taken, as well as cite or educate the pet owner as necessary.
“If it’s in distress, we’re going to do what we can to get it out of there,” he said.
Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office: 208-446-1300