Hot Cars Pose a Serious Danger to Children and Pets

As summer comes into full swing, both children and pets are subject to unique heat-related health risks, like being enclosed in a hot car for an extended period of time. Public health scientists recently released the results of a new study examining the dangers to dogs and toddlers.

Thermometers continuously captured temperature rise and relative humidity in various types of parked cars, and researchers calculated the rising core body temperature for a simulated two-year-old child over that same period. The study found that, in as little as an hour, the heat inside the car could turn deadly.

Cooler days, more cloud cover, vehicle type and available shade might provide a short reprieve, but the effects of enclosure in a car are inevitable. And children with medical conditions may be more vulnerable.

The authors note that 37 children die annually in situations like this. In more than half of cases, the child was forgotten, while in others the negligent adult responsible for the child was fully aware of the child’s location. It’s hard to say which prospect is more horrifying.

Animal caregivers should also take note. While the study didn’t include animal models, it’s likely that some dog breeds might be even more sensitive to heat than the average human toddler. Accounting for breed-related medical issues — especially those related to respiration, heart trouble and generally poorly heat-adapted features, like heavier coats — a parked car is a potential death trap for both human and canine members of the family.

Dogs are also much more likely to be left in parked cars than children, and while there are no national statistics on pet deaths due to overheating, it’s surely orders of magnitude higher.

According to statistics collected by PETA, police dogs that die in this manner number in the dozens. Extrapolate that small group to companion animals outside of the police force, and there might easily be thousands or tens of thousands of such preventable deaths annually.

No doubt your local animal shelters regularly warn about the dangers of leaving dogs or other animals behind in a hot car for any length of time as we enter the summer season. And some of the dogs you encounter in this situation may not be your own, but there are steps you can take to ensure their safety.

The laws can vary from state to state, but the physics of temperature and the medical consequences of overheating do not. Stay cool out there, and make sure the kids and dogs among your friends, families and neighbors stay cool, too.

Photo Credit: Jon Lever/Unsplash


ANA MARIJA R4 months ago

copy & paste Winn A
Thank you for the reminders for dummies. Shared.

kathy bonard
kathy bonard4 months ago

Where are people's intelligence ? Doesn't it go without saying that children and pets should not be left in cars in the summer ? If people do not comprehend this they should not have children or pets.It's not rocket science !

Leo C
Leo Custer4 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Dot A
Dot A4 months ago

How terrible, Beryl !!! Yes, of course, it's automatic to say how sorry one feels for the parents, but, I agree with you, Beryl, this ought to have been an extreme teaching moment for this community. I am sorry also for you, Beryl, as you may have known this little child, who passed from this earth much too early, only due to complete negligence. People seem to be plugged in to their technology, and unplugged to the living who surround them. A tragedy in so many ways,....

Beryl L
Beryl L4 months ago

A Child near where I live was just lost yesterday due to the parents leaving her in the car. Instead of warning parents and people do not do this to their dogs they showed the family mourning the loss of their child but never mentioned for other parents not to do this

Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart4 months ago

I really hate it when police officers leave their K9 companion to die in a hot car- WTF?!

Roslyn McBride
Roslyn McBride4 months ago

If people don't know this by now, they shouldn't have a pet in the first place.

Dot A
Dot A4 months ago

Smashing Congratulations to everyone who’d just do the right thing and rescue some poor child or pet from a terrible death! It really does appear that perhaps these forgettances are masked murders. I hope not, of course, but it sure is suspicious when anyone with half a brain to drive an automobile would walk away from little beings and leave them in a car that will turn into a furnace in just minutes!

tammy C
tammy C4 months ago

I'll smash a window if needed to save a life at the end of the day I have to look at myself in the mirror

michelle t
michelle m4 months ago

If I see an animal or a person locked in a hot/dangerous predicament, I will always rescue them.This can mean smashing the vehicles window to save them from danger and possibly death.