Although no dog should be left alone in a car, senior dogs are particularly susceptible to heat-related conditions because of their inability to regulate body temperature as well as they could earlier in life. Also, members of this age group are more likely to develop illnesses as the effectiveness of their immune system decreases, which further puts them in danger when it comes to high temperatures. Don’t be fooled by the weather; even on a cloudy day the temperature inside a car can rise quickly.
Leaving a dog alone in a car is putting them at greater risk than you probably realise. Even if it is parked in the shade or you leave the windows open, the temperature won’t decrease much and can rapidly rise within a short space of time. You may only plan to be ten minutes, or five, or two, but a long queue in a shop or chatting with someone you haven’t seen for a while could add precious minutes on to the time it takes for you to get back to your dog. The effect on their life can be devastating regardless of how long you leave them alone.
Dogs are at risk of overheating, heatstroke and even dying in this situation. This happens when they are unable to cool down and regulate their body temperature. The circulation of air is ineffective inside a car, so when the dog pants and takes in warmer air than they are expelling, that is where the problem starts.
The dog will excessively pant and dribble, and the blood vessels dilate to expel more heat, so the heart has to work harder to supply more blood to them. Blood pressure then begins to fall and organs such as the kidneys, intestine, stomach and liver experience thermal damage, because cells can’t function normally when they exceed the temperature they need to be able to work at. This then induces vomiting and severe bloody diarrhoea, and the brain swells as blood clots form on it. When the dog’s body reaches approximately 42.8 degrees Celsius they can slip into a coma and suffer from seizures, as well as irreversible brain damage and death.
Senior dogs in particular are at risk in these situations. Their inability to regulate body temperature effectively, coupled with their weaker immune systems, makes them especially vulnerable. Also, their organs may not be functioning as well as they used to, which is vital for heat regulation and expenditure. A senior dog may not respond very well to unfamiliar scenarios or situations. Therefore, if they see people or things outside of the car that they aren’t used to, they may pant more and their metabolic rate rises, which further increases their temperature.
No dog is safe when left in a car, but senior dogs fall into the bracket of the most susceptible to overheating. Under no circumstances must a dog be left in a car, and it is best for them to remain at home if you know you will have to do this. Bringing them along only to leave them in a dangerous situation isn’t worth it, when they could be safe at home.