Summer heat, cars and our furry friends… some things you should know

The first “official” day of summer is only a few weeks away but even the Gators are seeking shade from this heat we’ve been experiencing! Based on current temperatures, I think it’s probably safe to predict that August will be scorching hot. As summer approaches and we are concerned with umbrellas, hats, and sunscreen, it’s important to remember how the heat can affect our furry friends too.

My dog loves to go for rides in the car and let’s face it, it is common for many people to bring their dogs along for the car rides, but when is it too hot for us to leave our dogs in the car? I think a good rule of thumb, based on the temperature, is to consider if you would leave your child in the car without air conditioning for the same amount of time as you are leaving your pet.

However, as a faculty member of the University of Florida, I turned to the science and data to provide you with some research-based information on how heat can affect our furry friends. For example, if your vehicle is a cool 70º degrees when you exit, it only takes approximately 20 minutes for the temperature to rise to nearly 100º degrees.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the average body temperature of a dog is 101 to 102º degrees – so cracking the windows may not provide enough relief to keep animals from overheating. In fact, AVMA studies show that a parked car with the windows cracked heats up at almost the exact same rate as a car with the windows rolled up.

I know that we all have those, “well, I’ll only be a minute” or “I’ll park over here under this tree” moments, but let’s be realistic; how many times has that minute innocently turned into 30 minutes because we ran into someone we knew or got sidetracked? Also, if you are parking under the only tree in the parking lot, chances are it is just as hot there as the rest of the lot.

In the past few years, I have noticed more pet owners leaving their engine on to provide air conditioning for their pets inside the vehicle. In theory, this sounds like a remedy to the overheating concern, but in reality, there are 100s of reported cases where the air conditioner did not provide enough airflow or ventilation for the animals.

I’m not saying this approach isn’t helpful, but after watching news segments of families who have lost their pet ¬¬because this approach didn’t provide enough ventilation or the dog flipped the vehicle’s cooling system off was personally devastating.

So, what can you do to avoid overheating your pet when you go to the store or out to eat? Your best option is to leave your pets at home or find dog-friendly establishments. There are some great phones apps that can provide information on dog-friendly shops and restaurants. One that I have used before is bringfido.com.

We are already reading the sad stories of pets left in cars as we begin this summer season. So, let’s remember it is hot in Florida during the summer and it is dangerous to leave our pets unattended in parked cars. I hope this brief snapshot of the science convinces you to keep your pets at home or find dog-friendly places during the summer.

For more information on this topic or Clay County 4-H please contact the Clay County Extension office at (904) 284-6355. UF/IFAS an equal opportunity institution.