Locally, police and animal control officers have been called to assist overheated dogs locked in cars parked at the casinos, grocery stores, and restaurants.


Dog owners should be aware that officers do have the right to break a car’s window if they feel the dog needs immediate help to save its life. Dogs are much more susceptible to heat-related illness than adult humans; due to their smaller body mass, their internal temperatures rise much faster than ours do. As you’ve probably noticed, cars heat quickly. A Stanford University study found that the temperature inside cars reaches 80 percent of its peak temperature in the first 30 minutes. The study also found almost no temperature difference between a closed car and one with the windows cracked open. On a 95-degree day, a car can reach 149 degrees in 15 minutes. This is true on even what we here in the north valley would call a cool day; on a 72 degree day, a car can reach 116 degrees within 60 minutes. Fifteen minutes in a hot car is enough to cause a dog to suffer from heat stroke. This can be fatal, or cause permanent brain damage. Signs of developing heat stroke include:

  • excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • drooling
  • mild weakness
  • seizures
  • bloody diarrhea or vomiting
  • stupor and collapse

Dogs inside cars are not the only ones who suffer in the heat. Dogs who ride in the backs of trucks are at extreme risk of heat-related illness, too. Truck beds – whether they are lined or not – get hot enough to fry an egg in the sun, so why would you make your dog stand or sit on such a surface? Plus, the hot air quickly can quickly dehydrate a dog, whose main tool for regulating his body temperature is panting. Once the dog gets dehydrated, he can’t keep himself cool, and heat stroke can follow rapidly.

If you see any of these symptoms in a dog who has been exposed to excessive heat, get help from a veterinarian immediately.

A better solution? Leave your dogs home on hot days. As much as they may enjoy taking a ride with you in the car or truck, be a responsible pet owner and make them stay home. And if you see a dog locked in a hot car (or tied in the back of a truck in the hot sun), in the city of Oroville, call the Oroville Police Department at 538-2480. In the county, call the Butte County Sherriff’s Department at 538-7321.


Nancy Kerns is the Editor of The Whole Dog Journal