What should you do if you see a dog in a car on a hot day? Experts weigh in
By Kim Campbell Thornton
It's 69 degrees and cloudy at the beach, with a humidity level of 83 percent and no breeze. You see a dog locked in a truck with the sunroof open but all the windows rolled up. There's no sunshade blocking the windshield, and the dog doesn't appear to have water. He's barking frantically.
Several news stories recently have reported on people breaking into cars to rescue dogs locked in, only to be arrested for their good deed. In response, at least one state, Tennessee, has legalized the act, making it an extension of the state's Good Samaritan law -- but only if the rescuer takes certain steps beforehand, such as searching for the owner and notifying law enforcement.
How do you know when a dog is at risk, and what should you do?
Factors to consider include whether the car is in the shade, the color of the car (dark-colored cars get hotter faster), whether windows are rolled down, if there's a breeze and the age and breed of the dog or cat, says Valerie Schomburg, animal control supervisor for Newport Beach, California, police department. Older animals or those with heavy coats or short snouts are more susceptible to heat.
"Brachycephalic breeds like Pugs have a hard time breathing anyway," she says. "If you put an older pug in a black car with the windows rolled up, he's going to be at a disadvantage."
Look to see if the owner has made an effort to protect the pet from the heat, such as parking the vehicle in the shade with all windows open, covering the windshield with a sunscreen or the cargo area with an awning and crating the dog with a full water dish and a running crate fan. If that's the situation and the dog is calm and not in distress, you likely have less cause for concern.
Use common sense. If it's a summer evening, after sunset and dogs are in cars with windows open and the owners are standing right there, the dog's not at risk. (Yes, I have seen someone raise concerns in just that situation.)
If the dog doesn't have a shady spot in the car and is panting heavily, drooling, seems disoriented or shows other signs of distress, take action. That can range from going inside a coffee shop or grocery store and having the owner paged to calling the police or animal control.
"Some people may be embarrassed to call law enforcement, but you want to get someone on the way who can do something," says Temma Martin of Salt Lake City, a spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society. "If it takes them 10 minutes to get there, that 10 minutes could be as long as the pet has in the car on a hot day."
Schomburg says Newport Beach officers respond to all calls. "If it's December and it's cold and rainy, we still respond. We don't ever want to make a judgment like, 'Oh, I think it's OK today.'"
Be prepared to give information as to the condition of the dog and the description and location of the car. If you can, stay there to flag down the responder so he or she knows where to go.
Unless the dog is barely alive, it's best not to try to remove him yourself. He could bite you or run away or the owner could have you charged with breaking into the car. Once animal control or police show up, give a statement and leave. Don't get into a screaming match with the owner if he or she shows up. Let law enforcement handle it.
"Between pet owners making good decisions and witnesses making good decisions, lives can be saved," Martin says.
Is clinical trial
right for cat?
Q: My cat has an injection-site sarcoma, and I'm thinking of enrolling him in a clinical study that will look at a new way to deliver chemotherapy. What are some things I should consider? -- via email
A: Clinical trials have resulted in better treatments, improved survival of pets and new ways to predict the success of treatments, but there's a lot to consider. First, talk to your veterinarian. Ask how the treatment your cat is or will be receiving differs from the treatment being investigated. Your veterinarian should be able to tell you if participation in the study will have a positive or negative effect on your cat's quality of life, as well as other pros and cons of the study.
The study's research coordinator can tell you if there are any costs to enrolling in the study (usually not), what treatments and aftercare your cat will receive, the type of results you may expect and what the potential side effects of the treatment might be. Your veterinarian and the research coordinator can help you decide whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential side effects.
Cancer can be painful, even if it's being treated. Make sure your cat will receive pain medication during the study. That should be standard in any clinical trial.
Some clinical trials are placebo-controlled, meaning that some pets get the treatment and some receive a placebo (inert substance). If this study is placebo-controlled and your cat is in the placebo group, ask if he would be eligible afterward to receive the treatment being investigated.
A major factor is your cat's temperament. Is he a laid-back kitty or one who's easily stressed? How will he react to having to go in for treatment?
Finally, you should be free to remove your cat from the study at any time if you think that's best for him.
Having this information will help you and your veterinarian decide if participation in the clinical trial will benefit your cat. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Beneath the cat's paw:
-- Have you ever looked at your cat's toes -- really looked at them? They have five toes on their front paws, but only four of them touch the ground when a cat is walking. The fifth toe, known as a dewclaw, is the feline equivalent of the thumb. While it's not opposable, the dewclaw does help the cat grasp things and climb trees. The toe anatomy makes it easy for cats to go up trees, but not so easy to come back down. The back paws have four toes but no dewclaws. Some cats have extra toes and are known as polydactyls, meaning "many fingers."
-- A little anxiety tends to help us perform better in stressful situations, but too much can make us fail. Turns out the same is true for our dogs, according to a recent study published in Animal Cognition. Highly excitable dogs respond best to a neutral tone of voice, while mellow pets perform their best when urged on in an upbeat tone of voice. Service dogs, who must work in the face of distractions, usually stay cool in stressful situations, more so than pets who aren't as highly trained. Try adjusting your tone of voice to match your dog's temperament, and see if it affects how he responds to your commands.
-- A new species has been added to the canine family tree, raising the number of living canid species from 35 to 36. Although they share a strong resemblance, DNA evidence shows that the golden jackals of East Africa and Eurasia are two different species, according to a July 30 report in the journal Current Biology. "This represents the first discovery of a 'new' canid species in Africa in over 150 years," says Klaus-Peter Koepfli of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. The previously unrecognized species has been named the African golden wolf. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Mikkel Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: A rule of thumb is that if it's warmer than 70 degrees, it's too hot to leave your dog in the car. Short-nosed dogs are especially at risk. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Cats have approximately 27 bones in each paw, including the toes and dewclaws. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1