Take a stand against hot dogs (and cats) this summer!

Take a stand against hot dogs (and cats) this summer!

 Ask the RV Vet

With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
 YourRVvet@gmail.com

The first official day of summer is coming up, and for most of us, that means hot weather.

We humans can adjust our clothing (less of it) or our environment (yay for air conditioning!) to keep cool, but our four-legged friends are wearing their fur coats all the time; they can’t alter their “clothing” or adjust the thermostat.

Yes, it helps to keep that woolly undercoat thinned out, and some dogs (some cats, too) can benefit from a close haircut. But we all need to be mindful of our pets’ special needs in hot weather.

Don’t leave them in the vehicle. You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. On a 78 degree day, the temperature in a vehicle can soar up to 100 degrees in just minutes, even with the windows down an inch or two. At those temperatures, a dog or cat can have brain damage or die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes.

Dogs and cats don’t have true sweat glands to help keep themselves cool. They rely mainly on panting. If you ever see a cat panting, it is either extremely hot or extremely nervous.

Another consideration is that your pet and/or your vehicle may get stolen. Recently, a van with 14 show dogs was stolen in California. An anonymous tip led law enforcement to the abandoned vehicle, and all the dogs were recovered (read about it here).

Bottom line: leave them at home when you’re out running errands or sightseeing, so you don’t have to leave them in the vehicle.

Don’t walk your dog on hot pavement. On a mid-80 degree day, the asphalt can reach temperatures of 140 degrees. That’s enough to cause blistering and burns. If it feels too hot to your hands when you touch it, the pavement is too hot to walk your pet on it. Take your walks early in the morning or later in the evening when the temps are cooler. Limit your walks if the temperatures are still high at those times.

Provide shade and water outside. If being outside on a hot summer day feels uncomfortable to you, it is also uncomfortable for your pet. For those times when you sit outside to enjoy a little fresh air, make sure there is ample shade and water for your pet.

Signs of Heatstroke:

Heavy panting
Difficulty breathing
Rapid heartbeat
Excessive thirst
Lack of coordination

Dogs that are older, very young, overweight, or have heart conditions, are more susceptible to the ravages of heatstroke, as are breeds with short muzzles, such as boxers, English bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, and shih tzus, to name a few.


You can now track your pet, no matter where he/she may have run off to, with Whistle, a GPS tracking device. Whistle uses both GPS and cellular technology to locate your pet anywhere in the U.S. You can also use it to alert you when your pet leaves its designated “safe” places. A monthly or yearly subscription plan is required after purchase. You can learn more and purchase from Amazon here.


How to treat heatstroke

Move the animal to an air-conditioned area. If possible, place it in a tub with cool (not cold) water. Apply ice packs to the head, neck, and chest (frozen vegetable bags will work). Take the animal’s temperature with a rectal thermometer, so you have a baseline, and make a beeline for a veterinary clinic. Normal temperature for a dog is about 101.5.

I’ve treated several dogs with heatstroke; some died. One I particularly remember was an English bulldog. Her owner took her on an extended run in the woods on a hot and humid Missouri day in July. When she collapsed, he had to carry her about a quarter of a mile to his car. Her temperature on arrival was 107 degrees. Had she survived, she likely would have had brain damage.

What should you do if you see a pet in a parked vehicle on a hot day?

• Check to see if the doors are locked.
• Write down the car’s make, model, color, and license plate number. If there are businesses nearby have them make an announcement to find the owner.
• If the owner can’t be found, call the police or other law enforcement agency and wait for them to arrive. If you think the animal can’t wait any longer, find a witness and decide how you are going to get the pet out.

WARNING: You may be liable for prosecution if you break a window to try to save a pet. Only eight states have a “Good Samaritan” law that protects someone from being arrested for destruction of property. About half of the states don’t have any rules at all. The best resource for finding the law in your state is HERE at the Animal Legal & Historical Center at Michigan State University website.

For many of us, the threat of prosecution will not be a deterrent to breaking a window.

You can help spread the message of the danger of leaving a pet in a hot car. Get this vehicle sunshade from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.  I’ve ordered mine, and for a short time, they’re buy one, get free!

Remember: the only hot dogs that are good in summer are the kind you put in a bun and eat.

Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com 

Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for over 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She travels with a fifth wheel and a 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner. 

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6 thoughts on “Take a stand against hot dogs (and cats) this summer!

  1. J

    I cannot believe the stupidity of people who will leave pets and children in a hot car!

    I remember going to a fast food place on the way home from camping with my dog. It was a hot day, so the only option was to go through the drive through and then eat in the car. No way would I subject my baby to the heat of a locked car. As I sat there, I watched a family get out of their car, lock their dog in the car and attempt to go in the restaurant!

    I called them on it and they claimed it was fine, the car was airconditioned, so it was still cool inside. It was 38c out – that’s over 100f! I went ballistic on them and told them that the inside of their car would heat up to the temperature of oven within minutes! And if they went in that restaurant and their dog was inside, I was calling the SCA and the cops.

    They finally made the correct decision to sit outside in the blazing sun and bring their dog out with them. I sat in my car well after I was done to ensure that they did not try to put the dog in their car and go into the air conditioned restaurant. They glared at me the whole time, but at least the dog was safe.

    …maybe I should have let them go in and just called the cops and had the dog removed…who knows what they will do next time.

  2. DMason

    If we wouldn’t sit in the car without heat or AC, we either take our dog into the store (where allowed) or one of us stays with him with the AC or heat running. We often leave all windows down (risking theft) if that will keep the temperature reasonable and we feel we’re in a low risk area.

  3. Keith M.

    I know we’ve both written about this before, but there are several temperature monitors available that will alert you to dangerous temperatures when away from your car/RV.

    I’ve seen some people put thermometers and placards in their own car windows, reading something like “If thermometer reads over 90, please call [their cell]. If dog is in clear distress, please DO break this window.” I don’t recommend it from a personal security stance, but “it’s an option.”

    I’d also like to remind folks that many cars have keyless remote start — lock up your car, and then restart the engine (and thus AC…), and be back before it shuts down again. I might put a note on the dash saying something like “Engine and AC are on; dog is happily listening to his favorite folk music. Thanks for your concern, and I’ll be back soon!”

    Finally, while you’re correct about Good Samaritan laws being spotty, all the LEOs I know would support you if you follow the recommended procedures:

    1) You must notify law enforcement or emergency personnel first/ASAP.
    2) You must in good faith believe the child or pet’s life is in *immediate* danger.
    3) You must remain with the child or pet until emergency personnel arrive

    No, you can’t freely smash windows before there’s an emergency, and you can’t leave the scene before EMS arrives. 911 can help you assess whether you need to intervene faster than the police can arrive, and you are usually legally protected if they direct you to intervene.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I don’t consider a placard in the window to be an option. What if no one sees it?
      And if you leave the car on, locked, with the AC on, what if your 50# pound dog puts a paw down on the gear shift lever? It’s happened!
      And although I’m sure most law enforcement agencies would back up a Good Samaritan, there ARE cases where people have been arrested for breaking windows to save a dog…I don’t know about children.
      Dr. Deanna

      1. Keith M.

        Yeah, I think the theory of the placard is more about keeping OVERzealous folks from smashing windows before it’s actually warranted. The time I saw it was a well-populated area, and I noticed it because a crowd was commenting on it being funny-ish. Good teaching opportunity for me to comment how it IS a serious issue, just not the “best” approach.

        The gearshift point is an interesting addition — I always use my parking brake (even in an automatic). It may be becoming a rarer problem, though — most newer cars actually lack a physical linkage, so shifting is just setting a bunch of contact switches and the computer shifts in and out of Park/R/F/N/? when it decides to obey — so even a HEAVY dog forcing the lever would “never” shift. Scarily enough, some trucks had a recent recall where the computer would glitch and shift out of park with NOTHING touching the lever. At least when the computer is working right, remote start SHOULD kill the engine if you somehow forced it into gear. Mine’s so overprotective it kills the engine if I even drop my tailgate.

        And yes, overzealous people have been prosecuted for breaking into cars without cause or permission — that’s why if at ALL possible, contact EMS/LEO and get their express permission FIRST. It’s always better to let them arrive if there’s an option to put the burden on them.

        Due to (I believe Federal) laws, there are additional legal protections for “coming to the aid of a minor” above helping pets, but I myself would apply the same rules for others and more wisdom for myself. I just DON’T leave kids/animals that can’t open the doors in my cars. Safety discussions like this often degrade into “the best way to do it wrong” when you could, oh, just not be an idiot at all. 🙂

  4. Susan F

    It never ceases to amaze me that owners who claim to love their fur babies SO MUCH will leave them in a car unattended. They should try sitting in that vehicle in the same conditions to see how comfortable it is and how long before they can’t stand it and must get out. Heat, cold, whatever the conditions are, animals should never be left like that. Too many things can go wrong.

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