HOT TOPIC: Pets in Cars

Over the past 10+ years pet owners have been spending more time traveling with their pets, especially those with dogs.  There are numerous explanations for this, with the primary reasons being that 1) pets are becoming more a part of the family and 2) communities are becoming more pet friendly (to accommodate for reason 1).  Many restaurants now allow leashed, well-behaved canines in their outdoor areas (as allowable by law).  More and more hotels are becoming pet friendly which makes it easier to travel long distances with pet companions.  Many neighborhoods have Dogipot Stations available to make clean up easy and convenient (though I personally do not find carrying around a small thing of doggie doo doo bags to be cumbersome).  It’s easier than ever to let Fido jump in the backseat of the car for a ride-along!

We must always remember to be mindful of our surroundings at all times when we have our pets with us.  Are there other animals in the area that might not be friendly, or that my pet might like to chase?  Is there something dangerous along our walking path (broken glass, chemicals, delicious trash)?  Is the temperature suitable for my pet?  There are several things to take into consideration, just as there are when you travel with your children.  For this post we are going to focus on the temperature factor.

It’s that time of year when the sun rises high in the sky and sets well into the late evening hours. With increased sunlight hours comes increased outdoor temperatures. We have all kinds of options for keeping cool such dressing loosely, turning on a fan, going for a swim, or relaxing in the air conditioning.  More daylight hours also tends to lead to increased activity outdoors.

I don’t know about all of you, but when the weather’s nice I enjoy outdoor activities with my dog.  We enjoy running, frisbee fetching, spending time at the beach or the neighbor’s pool, visiting with friends, boating, kayaking, or just hanging out and relaxing at the park.  Sometimes when we are traveling with our pets we need to make a pit-stop.  The gas tank might be getting low, you realized you forgot to pack water for the adventure that lies ahead, we need ice to fill up the coolers, or we just need to run into the grocery store and grab a bag of chips to go with the sandwiches that we packed for the picnic.

In the event that you need to leave your pet in the car for a short period of time, be aware that the temperature within your vehicle will increase over time.  The following is a chart that shows how the temperature of the interior of an enclosed vehicle in the sun changes over time.

How the interior temperature of an enclosed vehicle increases in the sun over time

Once again, this is the temperature increase of an enclosed vehicle in the sun.  If you must leave your pet in the car to run into the store, please keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Park in a well shaded area.
  • Keep the windows down at a level that is safe for your pet.  If you have a dog that is likely to jump out of an open window, don’t leave the window down all the way!  If you have a cat that can squeeze through a cracked window, just crack it to a point at which your cat can’t escape.
  • Keep your vehicle running with the air conditioning on.
  • If your pet is in a carrier, or if you have a pet that is well-behaved on a leash, you can likely get by with taking your pet with you into the store.
  • Keep your pit-stops brief.
  • If you have a tendency to get side-tracked, have diarrhea of the mouth when you meet people in the store that you know (or are just meeting), or if your quest for 2 or 3 items often turns into a cart-full, I recommend you never make a pit-stop while your pet is with you.

It is safe for you to travel with your pet, even in the summer months.  Just be mindful and keep any time away from your pet to an absolute minimum.  After all, you wanted to spend time with your pet, didn’t you?  Then do just that!

A message to everyone; pet owners, pet lovers, PETA, HSUS, Animal Welfare Institutions, Animal Rescue Organizations, Animal Control Officers, etc.  I understand that there is a concern for pets that are left alone in vehicles, especially in the extreme temperature months.  Should they be left in vehicles unattended?  Probably not.  Can they be left unattended in vehicles safely?  Absolutely.

If you happen upon an unattended animal in a vehicle, look at the time on your watch/smartphone/car clock.  If the animal appears to be in distress, contact the local animal authorities ASAP!  NEVER take it upon yourself to break a car window or break into a vehicle with an animal in it.  For one, you don’t know that the animal inside isn’t dangerous toward strangers!  Also, you may have just pulled up beside the vehicle as the owner was just entering the store.  A barking, whining or panting dog does NOT indicate distress (at least in terms of temperature).  Perhaps that dog suffers from separation anxiety and it acts out whenever the owner is out of sight (hence why the owner takes it with her regularly).

Be aware of your pet’s comfort level.  If you have a bracheocephalic breed (bulldog, pug, boxer, shih tzu) or an obese pet that struggles to breathe in 70 degree temps at 60% humidity, don’t travel with it if you have to leave it alone in a car for even 5 minutes.  If you have a puppy under 4 months of age or a senior pet over 10 years of age, don’t travel with it if you have to leave it alone in a vehicle for more than 10 minutes.  If you have a dog with severe separation anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to manage the behavior.

Once again, this is a topic open for discussion.  Please leave your constructive criticism or comments below.  It’s impossible to hit upon every possible scenario when it comes to pets in vehicles, so lets discuss it!

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RIP Sweet Little Penelope

In early 2000 my significant other and I moved to the desert of Southern California. He was fresh out of Grad School and scored a pretty cool gig at Edwards AFB. I was working on getting some experience in the Animal Care field and got a job as a Veterinary Assistant at a nearby animal hospital.

After several months at my new job one of my coworkers, Jamie, had taken on two foster cats.  The owner of the cats was moving and couldn’t take them along so her friend, Jamie, said she’d take them and find homes for them.  Jamie asked me if I’d be interested and I emphatically declined.  I was NOT a “cat person” and had absolutely NO desire to bring even ONE cat into my home!  So I said I’d take one and foster it till it could be placed.  Call me a pushover.

When I let this cat out in our apartment, she acclimated quite rapidly.  Then Chris came home and she just thought he was the best thing in the world!  She loved all over him and told him how wonderful she thought he was.  Then he named her.  Penelope.  And she took her place in our home…our first pet!

Young Penelope, circa 2004

Young Penelope, circa 2004

For 14 years she shed hair on our lives.  Purred in our laps.  Gave us sandpaper kisses.  Tickled us with her whiskers.  She did whatever she wanted to do and allowed us to be a part of her life.  She was a very personable cat and loved people (as long as it was in HER own home).  She was not fond of other animals but tolerated her housemates, including me.  Chris was always her favorite!

Over the course of the last 2 years of her life, Penelope was losing weight and slowing down.  But she was still happy and full of life!  By May of this year however, she went downhill rapidly and we had to make the most difficult decision any pet owner ever has to make.  It was time and she let us know that she was ready.

Pets are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  I don’t remember who coined that but it is 110% true.  And as difficult as it is to make such decisions for our beloved pets, it will never discourage me from bringing another into our home.

We miss you sweet little princess Penelopeeperpie.  She is the reason I am a “cat person” today.

Penelope 2015

Penelope 2015