When thinking about dogs in vehicles, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the risk of them overheating. But the other side of the coin can be problematic, too. Dogs can get hypothermia when their body temperature drops even one degree below normal levels — and it can be fatal in some cases. Because of this, pet owners need to think about keeping their four-legged family members warm when the circumstances warrant it.
This may seem like less of a concern during the traditionally warmer months, but recent weather phenomena have shown us that unexpected temperatures can come at any time. That puts the onus on dog owners to be prepared to shelter their pets from dropping temperatures at essentially any time of year.
There are primarily two situations in which a dog is most likely to contract hypothermia: in a vehicle or outdoors. If you let your dog roam outside, or you leave them in the car while running errands, you should know the risks your pet faces and how to identify the signs of hypothermia.
Hypothermia risk in the car
Most dog owners know that leaving their dog in the car during the summer months is a bad idea, given the imminent risk of overheating. But it is less common to think about the risk of leaving dogs in a vehicle when the weather cools.
While a car will not get cold as quickly as it can become hot, cars have minimal insulation. That means that it will provide shelter from wind and falling snow or rain, it can only do so much to maintain a warm interior.
In fact, the American Kennel Club specifically calls out the risk for hypothermia when dogs are left alone in a car for too long. And the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says that “cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.”
Fortunately, you have options beyond leaving your dog to wait in the car. Here are a few alternative solutions:
- Ask if pets are allowed inside. Many stores, particularly locally owned businesses and stores that carry pet products, will allow you to bring your canine into the store with you. Check the window for a sign indicating pet-friendliness or that no dogs are allowed. If no sign exists, simply ask an employee.
- Bring a passenger. This way, your dog will have someone to keep them company — and to monitor the interior temperature of the car. Leave your keys with them so they can turn on the heat if it gets too chilly in the vehicle.
- Look for “pet pods.” These individually sized, lockable kennels regulate temperature and provide a comfortable space for your pet to relax while you shop. They are usually located in front of the store, where available. While they are not commonplace yet, companies are working to make them more widespread.
- Choose “curbside delivery.” If the store offers the option, consider ordering online ahead of time and choosing curbside delivery. This way, you can stay in the car with your dog and still get all of the items you need.
- Choose “pickup.” Not all businesses offer curbside delivery. If the place you are shopping lacks this choice, see if they have a pickup option. Heading in to pick up your prepared order will be significantly faster …….