My Pet World: Leaving a dog in hot car is deadly

July 13, 2011|By Steve Dale
  • [Caroline is a 3 year old Chihuahua.
[Caroline is a 3 year old Chihuahua. (HB Independent )

Question: Please warn your readers about leaving dogs alone in hot cars. In our town, a terrible tragedy occurred when two dogs were locked inside a car for two hours. When the owner returned from her shopping, both dogs were dead. I'm glad she was charged with animal cruelty. I say, if you see pets locked in a hot car, break the windows! — S.J., Joliet, Ill.

Answer: On July 4, Maya Webb, of Bettendorf, Iowa , went shopping at a furniture store in Joliet, Ill., leaving her two pit bulls in the car. By the time she returned, the dogs had died of heat stroke. It was only about 81 degrees outside, but the car windows were closed. Webb told police she left the dogs in the car with the car ignition running and the air conditioning on. Police say the engine was not running. Webb was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, a Class 4 felony.


According to various studies, the seating area of a car (even with the windows open) can heat up to over 100 degrees in 15 minutes when it's 85 degrees outside. Dogs don't cool themselves as efficiently as people, and are more prone to heat stroke. In some states, and in some communities, leaving animals inside hot cars is illegal. Instead of breaking into the car (unless the animal is in obvious distress), however, I'd suggest calling police.

Q: You recently wrote about dogs who lick everything, suggesting that these dogs have allergies or other physical or psychological issues. My Tibetan terrier licked herself, licked people, and seemed obsessed with eating paper. The vet said she was probably allergic to grasses. I wondered if she needed salt in her diet because she licked people for salt. Once I added salt to her food, she became a calmer dog. She no longer compulsively licks people or herself, or eats paper. Could it be that pet food companies have removed salt from their food? — J.B., Colonial Heights, Va.

A: As a practicing veterinarian for 44 years, Dr. Sheldon Rubin, of Chicagosays, "I've never heard of this solution."

Rubin notes that pet food companies add sodium chloride (salt) to diets primarily to create complete and balanced diets. As we require some sodium chloride in our diets, so do dogs. Also, sodium chloride enhances flavor.

"I wonder if your dog had a low sodium/potassium (blood) count to begin with," Rubin speculates. Such a low count could be an indicator of illness. However, if that was the case, additional salt would not be a treatment.

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