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Ask a Vet: Hot cars dangerous to your pets
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Don’t eat yellow snow. Don’t put your hand on a red-hot stove. Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia.

We all know these things. Still, ’tis the season, so I’m reminding you: Don’t leave animals in hot cars.

What constitutes a hot car?

At this time of year, pretty much any car parked outside during daylight. If the air conditioning isn’t on, the heat rapidly builds.

You can find online videos of veterinarians sitting in such cars, holding thermometers and documenting the rise in temperature that can occur in only minutes. These vets become sweaty and often come close to fainting. If they stayed in the car much longer, permanent damage might follow. Death lurks in the heat of summer.

Even parked out of direct sunlight, the greenhouse effect created by car windows causes the interior temperature to climb. In 10 minutes, a car that began with a cool 70-degree interior can be in the triple digits.

A half hour in direct sunlight can have a temperature higher than 120 degrees. Ambient temperatures of this sort are no big deal for Gila monsters. Cats, dogs and humans wilt.

The increased temperature damages everything. Some tissues, including the brain and heart, are more at risk, but no mammalian cells can survive such stresses. Brain cells die and liquefy. Heart muscle falters and fails. Kidneys suffer blood clot blockages and shut down. It’s all natural. It’s what cells do when out of their comfort zone.

The mammalian body is a conglomeration of cells that only function in a narrow band of conditions. Too dry, you die. Too hot, you die.

So please, don’t leave animals in cars in this weather. Only going to run into the store for a minute? Minutes sometimes grow into half hours. Sometimes once you’re inside, you forget. If you can’t use a drive-thru, find another way.

Take the animals with you or leave them at home where it’s safe. There’s a nuclear furnace only 93 million miles from us. Don’t let it cook your pets.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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