Pet-Proofing for Vehicle Safety

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Animals tend to get into everything, just like small children. Car safety is something often overlooked by pet owners, but vehicles present several potentially fatal hazards to your furry friends. Cats and dogs are particularly vulnerable to harm caused by vehicles and automotive products. This is mainly due to their curious nature and the amount of exposure they have to these threats.

Seasonal Risks:

Too often, pets are left inside cars during extreme temperatures while their owners shop for groceries, get a haircut, or attend to other business. Leaving a cat or dog in a closed car does a lot more than make them lonely. Leaving a pet in an automobile can be deadly.

According to the ASPCA, it takes only ten minutes for the internal temperature of a vehicle to reach 102 degrees on an average, 85-degree day. This rapid escalation in temperature occurs even if the windows are cracked an inch or two. Within 30 minutes, the internal temperature of a vehicle can reach 120 degrees F, even if you park in the shade. In cold weather, the temperature inside a car can drop lower than the temperature outside, which means your cat or dog is at risk for freezing to death. Very young or elderly animals are especially vulnerable to these extremes in temperature. Never leave your pet in a parked vehicle.1000x1000

Antifreeze is another serious risk to animals. Most antifreeze products contain a substance called ethylene glycol that is highly toxic to animals. Even in very small amounts, ethylene glycol may cause potentially deadly kidney damage in pets. Most antifreeze poisonings occur near the pet’s home, typically from mostly empty bottles of antifreeze that have been improperly disposed of and are left sitting around the yard.

To prevent antifreeze poisoning in your animal, make certain you clean up any spills immediately, store your antifreeze in a marked and sealed container out of the reach of pets, and watch for antifreeze leaks in your neighborhood where your pet plays or walks. If possible, switch to a product containing propylene glycol, a substance that is less toxic to animals.

Ice melts used to melt snow and ice on roads, driveways, and sidewalks also present a poisoning hazard to your animals. Ice melts are available in both solid and liquid forms and contain toxic ingredients that may result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and low blood pressure in pets. When significant amounts of ice melts are ingested, seizures, cardiac disturbances, coma, and death can result.

Another, potentially fatal threat to cats that increases during the winter months is injury or death caused by your cat sleeping or hiding inside or underneath your vehicle for warmth. If your cat climbs under the hood of your car, he may be injured or killed by the fan belt of your vehicle when your motor starts.

It is vital to check under the hood of your vehicle for any cats by banging on the hood before starting your engine. Even if you do not own a cat, you should still check for neighborhood cats or strays that may be using your vehicle as an escape from the cold. Double check behind you when backing out of your driveway. Animals startled by the sound of your ignition may run out from underneath your vehicle, placing them right in the path of your moving car.

Other Vehicle Safety Issues:

If your dog is like most dogs, he loves to hang his head out of the window while you are driving down the road. This can result in inner ear infections and damage, and may lead to lung infections or injury caused by flying objects. The eyes are particularly susceptible to damage caused by insects, gravel, and other airborne debris. Do not allow your dog to stick his head out of the window of a moving vehicle.

It is also important to keep your pet restrained when your vehicle is moving, preferably in a ventilated carrier or crate. This will keep the driver of the vehicle safe, prevent your animal from attempting to jump out of the moving car, and will help protect your animal in the event of a crash or sudden stop. Avoid feeding your animals while traveling due to the risk of choking, and make certain your pet has plenty of water available – especially in hot weather.

Thousands of pets are killed every year in their own yards – by their owner’s vehicles. Vehicles pose many hidden risks to animals, but a bit of knowledge about these dangers will help reduce the likelihood that your pet may become injured or killed by your car. Spending just a few minutes making certain your pet is protected against these dangers may save your beloved pet’s life. Your pet deserves to be safe, especially at home.


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