Keeping Pets Safe: The Dangers of Hot Cars, Asphalt, and Hiking

by J. Lee


It is that time of the year when too many pet owners leave their beloved pets in hot cars. It’s a year round problem, but summertime is the deadliest time of the year. It is heartbreaking that too many pet owners do not understand the dangers. Sadly, some of them just don’t care.

Their oversight can cause kidney damage, brain damage, or even death to their pets. Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter if it’s only for a short period of time. A car can heat up in as little as 5 to 10 minutes. Thank goodness for concerned citizens who came to the rescue of a dog in distress in a segment of the TV show, ‘What Would You Do’?

Veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward created a video where he sat inside a hot car. He illustrates how quickly a car’s interior heats up. He clearly explains cracked windows provided little ventilation or relief from rising temperatures. He also shares his thoughts regarding the panic an animal must feel.

“The car reaches 117 degrees within 30 minutes with all four windows opened 1 to 2 inches.”



Here is information from within the story ‘Puppy Pulled from 133-Degree Car in Riverside County’:

The law allows Californians to rescue pets left in cars if an animal seems to be in distress from the heat or lack of ventilation, including by breaking the vehicle’s window, without fear of prosecution or civil liability.

It’s important to keep in mind that in order to receive legal immunity, a person must comply with all the following requirements (Info via Office of Assemblyman Marc Steinorth):

  • Determine the car is locked or there is no other reasonable method to remove the animal from the vehicle

  • Have a reasonable and good faith belief that the animal is in imminent danger if not immediately removed

  • Contact law enforcement prior to entering the vehicle

  • Use no more force than necessary to enter the vehicle

  • If the person does enter the vehicle, the person must remain nearby with the animal in a safe location until law enforcement arrives. The person may not leave the scene.

Another critical problem that needs to be addressed is those who walk their dogs on hot asphalt and pavement. The best way to determine how hot asphalt is for the pet owner to place their wrist on it for 10 seconds. If it is too hot for you; it is too hot for them.

Pet Talk with Dr. B:

It is important to keep your pets away from pavement during the hot summer months. A sunny 85-degree day (air temperature) can cause asphalt temperatures to reach as high as 140 degrees. To put that into perspective, an egg can fry in 5 minutes at 131 degrees. At 125 degrees F, skin destruction can occur in as little as 60 seconds, resulting in pain, redness, swelling, and bleeding. As a rule of thumb, press the back of your hand firmly against the asphalt for 7 seconds. If it is uncomfortable for you, it will also be uncomfortable for your pet.



  1. As a basic ‘rule of paw’-If the pavement feels too hot for your bare foot, it is too hot for Fido’s.

  2. Pressing your own bare hands and feet on the pavement for at least 7-8 seconds is a recommended strategy to assess heat level.
  3. If the 7-8 second test yields a comfortable temperature, it is still critical to consider other factors to assess safety accurately.
  4. The air temperature is NOT an accurate reflection of ground temperature at all!
  5. Asphalt and other ground surfaces retain heat and this temperature rises exponentially as heat and sun exposure continues. (See chart above).
  6. Furthermore, the time of day is very relevant!
  7. Asphalt soaks up the heat all day and can only cool down at a certain rate and only when the sun retreats- so pavement that was deemed safe for a walk at 9 am may differ greatly at high noon and into the early evening.

Lastly, consider these issues regarding your dog and hiking. Many pet owners hike without planning for their pets. They forget to consider the danger of heat and humidity, wild animals they might encounter, and pests like fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

A family pet cannot sweat as human do. Deadly heat stroke can occur for them very quickly. When considering a hike with your dog, remember to bring extra water, food and a leash so that they don’t wander away. Hiking dangers exist, but they can be overcome when properly prepared. Do not ignore signs of heat stroke and distress. Dogs pant using their tongues to cool down, but panting does not provide the same relief for all breeds of dogs.

Breed predisposition

Brachycephalic breeds, dogs with short or “pushed in” faces (e.g., Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, and Bulldogs) tend to pant a lot because many have lifelong breathing difficulties. Due to the upper airway challenges suffered by these dogs, they often don’t pant efficiently and are at significantly increased risk for heatstroke.

Dangers That Threaten Dogs on the Hiking Trail

Are you ready to go for a hike with your canine companion? Before you head out, take some time to learn about the most common hiking dangers you and your dog are likely to encounter — and how to avoid trouble on the trail.

While you’re getting ready for your trip, make sure your dog is up-to-date on her parasite prevention to help protect against fleas, ticks, heatworm and more. Remember, ticks can transmit a number of pathogens that can lead to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and anaplasmosis, to name just a few.

And before you go, make sure you know the location and phone number of the nearest veterinary emergency clinic, just in case. Check out the video below for more tips from Dr. Sarah Wooten on hiking-related dangers and how to prepare for them.

Increased Body Temperature and Heat Stroke in Dogs

Hypothermia is an elevation in body temperature that is above the generally accepted normal range. Although normal values for dogs vary slightly, it usually is accepted that body temperatures above 103° F (39° C) are abnormal.

Heat stroke, meanwhile, is a form of non-fever hypothermia that occurs when heat-dissipating mechanisms of the body cannot accommodate excessive external heat. Typically associated with temperature of of 106° F (41° C) or higher without signs of inflammation, a heat stroke can lead to multiple organ dysfunction.


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