The heat warning may be over for Metro Vancouver, but the BC SPCA is still reminding the public to take extra care with their pets.
Spokesperson Lorie Chortyk says the organization received 1,000 reports of distressed animals locked in hot vehicles last year. She said this year, with summer yet to officially start, the SPCA has already received 400 such reports.
“I think they just don’t realize how quickly things can turn disastrous for their pets. People don’t realize it can take as little as 10 minutes — even if their car is parked in the shade with the windows rolled down — for their pet to die,” she said.
“The problem is that people just think, ‘Oh, I’m just running in for a minute,’ but that’s all it takes for… for something terrible to happen to an animal.”
Dogs do not have sweat glands and are only capable of releasing heat through their paws and by panting.
WATCH: Outraged passersby find four dogs in a car on a hot day in Vancouver
However, cars can heat up to more than 38 C in the summer. Exposure to those temperatures can leave a dog with brain damage or even kill them.
“People are saying, ‘Well, I leave the air conditioning on in the car,’ but we also have had situations where the air conditioning just breaks in the car during that time so that’s not a guarantee either,” Chortyk said.
“So we just really urge people to, unless there’s a second person who can stay in the car, keep the windows open, take the animal out.”
However, despite the concerns, the BC SPCA says Good Samaritans should not break into a car if they see a pet left inside alone, an action that remains illegal.
Instead, the organization says they should call the SPCA cruelty hotline at 1-855-622-7722.
WATCH: Langley woman assaulted after approaching owner who allegedly left dog in hot car
Operators will contact the nearest SPCA constable, animal control or police officer who will attend the scene.
Alternately, it advises concerned members of the public to take down the vehicle licence plate number and check with the managers of nearby businesses who may be able to locate the owner.
Symptoms of heatstroke in pets:
- Exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting)
- Rapid or erratic pulse
- Anxious or staring expression
- Weakness and muscle tremors
- Lack of co-ordination, convulsions
If your pet shows symptoms of heatstroke:
- Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place
- Wet the dog with cool water
- Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This will cool the blood, which reduces the animal’s core temperature
- Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow, which will inhibit cooling.
- Allow the animal to drink some cool water (or to lick ice cream if no water is available)
- Take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment