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Dogs like to ride, not sit in hot cars

By Christie Pool

Staff writer

Serious dog lover


My dogs love to ride. Correction: one of my dogs loves to ride in the car. The others just get really excited about going somewhere, even if they don’t particularly enjoy the trip.

When I say love: Shadow, our 9-year-old, long, black-haired sweetie of a mutt, seems happiest when his head is stuck out the window, ears blowing straight up from the wind, and nose sniffing countless new smells. Our other “big dog” Boston just likes being loaded into a car and hanging out, doing something besides sitting on the porch or walking around the neighborhood with me. She likes riding, but she doesn’t love it the way Shadow does. The third dog, a 10-pound Bichon – well let’s just say his spoiled little self much prefers sitting in a lap than riding. 

That being said, a couple of weeks ago I loaded the dogs into the Jeep and ran to Walmart. It was a cool, brisk morning at our house, in the upper 40s. While driving into town, I noticed it already warming up during the 15 minute ride. I parked beside a small tree giving some shade (even though it was likely still in the low 50s but a little shade is always better). I rolled down the windows enough so the dogs could stick their heads out but not so much they could jump out and run off in search of an adventure (or a nearby restaurant). 

I rushed through the store, grabbing needed items hastily. Arriving back at my car, I noticed all three dogs had their tongues hanging out, panting a little. I was surprised. Sitting in the car I realized it was indeed stuffy. I cranked the car and started home, rolling down the windows for the obligatory sticking out of heads (the dogs, not me). Looking down at the console, the thermometer said 57 degrees. 

Doesn’t seem too bad, right? Even at sub-60 degrees it doesn’t take long for a car’s interior to heat up to uncomfortable levels – especially for animals. I felt terrible. They weren’t hot, but I doubt they were comfortable. 

While good-intentioned – I just wanted to make them happy and let them ride along with their faces in the wind – I came dangerously close to being THAT person who leaves their dogs in a too-hot car. And that was at 57 degrees.

According to a Stanford University study, when it’s 72 degrees outside, the temperature inside our cars can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour. At 80 degrees outside, the temperature can heat up to 99 degrees within 10 minutes according to the study.

Ninety-nine degrees! In 10 minutes! And rolling down the windows has been shown to have little effect on the temperature inside a car, according to the Humane Society of the United States. A dog can only withstand a high temperature for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death. 

Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs as they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads. 

Now that temps are consistently in the 80s (think 100+ degrees inside a car), please remember that while your dogs may love to ride, they do not like sitting in a hot car.


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