HOUSTON — A dog left alone in the heat of the Texas sun is never a good idea, according to veterinarians.
Locking your pup in a car or leaving it out in the yard with no shade or water can lead to heat stroke, or possibly organ failure.
While many people may be tempted to help a dog that appears to be in distress, police say there can be consequences for people who take matters into their own hands.
Pearland police officer Jason Wells said people could face civil or criminal charges, including destruction of property, trespassing, or even theft, if the person trying to help the dog takes them away.
”If they feel like they’re going to have to break a window to save a life, that decision is ultimately on them," Wells said. "In a situation like this, they're anxious. They’re trying to assess the situation as best they can and get assistance there as quick as they can. Completely understandable, by the way. Again, just slow down a little bit, observe what’s going on.”
“Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ‘not too much.’ People want to help but you have to use common sense and good judgement when dealing with this stuff," said Animal Control Officer Daniel Paripovich with the city of West University.
Breed and size can also play roles in how long a dog may be able to last in the heat. Dogs with "smushed" faces, such as pugs or French Bulldogs, have more difficulty breathing due to their anatomies, and therefore have a harder time cooling themselves down.
Veterinarian Dr. Morgan Baskin at Memorial Veterinary Clinic said if a dog is responsive to cues, or is barking, it is likely OK. But if the dog is lethargic or not responding, it may be time to call 911.
She said dogs can suffer organ failure in less than 30 minutes in a hot car.
"In the summer months, you can’t put your dog in a car. You can’t leave them unattended in your car period," Dr. Baskin said.
Dr. Baskin said dogs cool themselves down by panting, not sweating like humans do. Leaving a dog in a hot car, or anywhere exposed to the heat and sun for a long time is dangerous for it.
"If they're panting excessively, if they're drooling, if they're not responding to cues, their name, if they seem like they're mentally not right, if they seem like they're distressed in any way, then I would take that seriously."
She said if a dog does get too hot, don't try to throw it in an ice bath.
Instead, use wet towels and air conditioning to help it cool, and get it to the nearest veterinarian as soon as possible. She said taking the dog's temperature rectally gives the most accurate reading.
A dog with a temperature over 103 degrees is in danger.
She also recommended carrying a portable water bowl, and going for walks or playing earlier in the morning before the air and surfaces get too hot.