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Hot dog: Never leave pets in your vehicle

Friday, 28th January, 2011

Dogs, like Zoe, should never be left alone in a stationary car, even if the windows are tinted or rolled down Dogs, like Zoe, should never be left alone in a stationary car, even if the windows are tinted or rolled down

With hot weather forecast for the week, the RSPCA is reminding pet owners not to leave animals in vehicles. 

Year after year, the animal welfare organisation warns of the dangers but continues to receive calls state-wide from concerned members of the public.

According to local RSPCA veterinarian Lucienne Downs, the RSPCA hasn't had any animals suffering from heat stroke brought into the shelter.

"Fortunately, people in Broken Hill are aware of the dangers ... it does happen from time to time," Dr Downs said.

However, the RSPCA had received a couple of calls to say that dogs had been left in cars. 

"It is a constant. Despite warnings people continue to occasionally leave dogs in cars.

"It is a tragedy waiting to happen as temperatures can increase really quickly. "If you are aware of the consequences, people will be more vigilant of prevention."

A common misconception is that it takes a blistering hot, sunny day to cause damage but temperatures inside vehicles can reach dangerous level even on overcast days.

Dr Downs said animals don't cool down well because they don't sweat. "Signs that lead to heat stress in dogs include panting heavily, appearing anxious or restless, gums are a brick red colour," she said.

"They might vomit or they might lay down and refuse to get up ... at that stage they could go into a coma or seizures.

"If people suspect heat stress, get them out of the heat, cool them down with fans or a cold shower.

"If they are not settling down then they need to get checked out by the vet ... signs can progress fairly rapidly."

Dr Downs said even having the window down in the car or water near your dog will not prevent heat stroke.

"It becomes as hot as a oven very quickly, even if in shade or if it overcast," she said.

RSPCA NSW Chief Veterinarian Dr Magdoline Awad said it only takes six minutes for an animal to die of heat stroke.

Old, overweight and short-nosed breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers, as well as dogs with heart problems, are at an even higher risk.

Cars left stationary in the sun can quickly reach temperatures in excess of 80 degrees and can remain dangerously hot even with open windows. 

Ute trays also become extremely hot.

"It's fantastic that people want to spend time with their animals but this is best don't outdoors where the animals has plenty of access to shade and fresh water," Dr Awad said.

If a dog suffers as a result of being left in a car, the maximum penalty is $5,500 and it can carry a six-month prison sentence.

If a dog dies as a result, the maximum penalty is $22,000 and two years in jail.

Members of the public are urged to contact police or RSPCA NSW on 1300 CRUELTY if they see a stressed animal in a car or tied to the back of a stationary ute.

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