With temperatures looming above normal for this time of year, the upcoming week will be hot 12 degrees hotter than normal and leaving a pet in a car could kill it.
Temperatures are expected to be in the high 90s and up to 100 on the July 4 holiday. The normal high temperature for this time of year is 87 degrees, according to Monica Traphagen of the National Weather Service.
"The main culprit behind the hot weather is a high pressure ridge," she said.
The only prospect for a break from the heat is possible thunderstorms over the mountains, which may cool the temperatures a few degrees but it will still be hot.
"These are the hottest days of the year so far," Traphagen said.
While those temperatures are uncomfortable for everyone, they can be downright dangerous for pets and children. And inside a car may be the most dangerous place, even for short periods.
For children in cars, Dr. Charles Pruitt, pediatric emergency medical physician at Primary Children's Hospital, said that the real danger is when unforeseen circumstances cause a child to stay in a hot car longer than the adults intended such as a long line at a grocery store. There is also the danger of a parent forgetting a child in the car, which can be especially dangerous.
In both cases, the heat inside a car can cause problems that lead to brain injuries or, in the worst cases, death.
Even playing outside, however, children should be protected with sunscreen, and they should rest and have something to drink every 15 minutes. They should also be watched for signs of heat stress, such as a flushing of the skin, skin that is hot to the touch, fatigue, confusion and other mental changes.
The early stages of heat stress can be treated with water or sports drinks and a cool, shady place to decrease body temperature. If the child is nonresponsive, Pruitt said he or she should be taken to an emergency room or call 911.
To demonstrate how quickly a car can heat, Humane Society of Utah executive director Gene Baierschmidt placed a stuffed animal in a car with a thermometer. After just 10 minutes the temperature was up to 110.7 degrees even with an outside temperature of 92 degrees which is above the 108-degree threshold "when dogs get into real trouble."
An animal left in a hot car faces heatstroke, he said. A dog suffering from heatstroke will pant rapidly, salivate excessively, vomit, appear anxious or vacant, won't respond to commands, have a rapid pulse rate and a high body temperature.
Leaving the car windows down to keep the car cooler is a fallacy, since the car will still get hot enough to cause distress to the animal. Also, leaving water to drink in a hot car will not help keep a dog cool.
If an animal shows signs of heatstroke, remove it from the car, get it in the shade and pour cool water on it. If the animal survives, Baierschmidt said, take it to a veterinarian. People who see pets in cars that look to be in distress in public places, such as shopping mall parking lots, should alert store managers, security or law enforcement to help find the owner or free the animal.
Dr. Terry Shields of the Utah Pet Center said that once a dog's temperature is too high, their brain and vital organs are affected. Although they can be saved with IV fluids to rehydrate and cool them, owners do not have much time once heatstroke sets in for the animal."They can die in 20 minutes," he said.
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