Dog Days of Summer: How Heat Exhaustion Affects Police Dogs

Written by Jessica Schaffer at Animal Cloud
6/17/2021

Summer’s here and everyone is ready to enjoy some warmer weather. In Texas’ case, however, that means 100ºF (and higher) days. But Texas isn’t the only place to have higher temperatures, especially during the summer. Have you ever gotten in your car only to be “scalded” by the hot, leather seat that had been baking in the sun? Even though it may not seem that hot outside, when you get in the car on a hot day, it feels a lot hotter. There have been stories of dogs, who were left in a hot car for a long period of time, who have died as a result of heat exhaustion. 

There are two types of heat exhaustion for dogs.

  1. When the dog is placed in a confined space (like a car), without access to fresh air or air circulation
  2. When the dog overexerts itself while exercising or hard work

The first type is the most common. It only takes less than 20 minutes for a car to reach temperatures around 120ºF, even when it is only 75ºF outside. Only 20 minutes. When an animal’s body temperature reaches around 106ºF, it is possible that the animal could have a heat stroke. If the body temperature reaches around 107ºF to 109ºF, it is possible that death could occur. 

In the past, there were reports of dogs working in law enforcement suffering from heat exhaustion because they were left in the vehicle for a long period of time. In order to prevent more deaths, specifically for police dogs, efforts concerning the technology of the K-9 vehicle itself have been made. The vehicles are equipped with a system that has the ability to monitor and regulate the heat and air conditioning in the car, specifically when a dog is being left there for a small period of time. The system is intended to alert the officer if there is a malfunction, allowing for them to remotely open the door for the dog to escape the hot car. Even though this electronic system is one step closer to preventing deaths relating to heat, it is not always reliable. 

In 2019, California reported the first heat-related, police dog death since 2005. Ozzy, the police dog, was left in a K-9 vehicle for an extended period of time after the safety system malfunctioned, disallowing the dog to escape the hot car. This is not the first time that these systems have malfunctioned. Although the systems are a smart, efficient way to prevent a heat-related death, there should be an additional system that would provide the owner with a secure system to ensure the safety of the police dog. Having an extra system that could possibly save an animal’s life is necessary, especially for something so preventable. 

Animal Cloud’s mission is to ensure information concerning the animal’s health is accessible to the owner in order to prevent any unforeseen deaths or injuries. In addition to the electronic system that is incorporated in police vehicles, Animal Cloud’s repurposed BATDOKTM application, which was developed by the United States Air Force, will provide an extra layer of security to ensure the animal’s health is recorded and documented. If Animal Cloud’s application were to be used as an extra safety measure, the owner would receive a notification of the dog’s health (for example, if the car got too hot and the dog was suffering from heat exhaustion). In addition, although it is less common, if the dog overexerted itself while exercising, the owner would be able to prevent any further heat-related injuries or deaths with Animal Cloud’s application. 

Heat-related deaths can easily be prevented. Having not one, but two modes of safety measures will ensure the law enforcement animal’s ultimate safety. So, next time that you get into the hot car that’s been baking in the sun, think about how a dog waiting for its owner must feel. Think about the opportunities that we have as a society to bring awareness to this important and growing issue. Think about the opportunities that we have in order to stop this preventable issue.

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