By GAIL MAHOLICK

gmaholick@tnonline.com [1]

With all the information about how dogs suffer when left in a hot car, I just can't believe that anyone would consider leaving their dog in their car while they enjoy breakfast in a nice air-conditioned restaurant.

That is exactly what I saw last week at a Lehighton restaurant. When I saw the poor dog panting sitting at the steering wheel of a red van, I thought about calling 9-1-1 and maybe after what happened is what I should have done. The side windows were open about 1-1/2 inches. Instead I went into the restaurant and told the waitress that someone left their dog in the car and the dog seemed to be in distress.

I have to give the waitress credit, she called out throughout the entire restaurant and asked who left their dog in the car. An older couple admitted to it and then berated me for asking about their poor pet. She said she left water in the car. She also informed me that "they do it all the time." She said there was also a second dog in the car.

I went outside to see for myself. There was a second dog lying as close to the floor as possible. I couldn't tell if it was breathing or not. By then the first dog had given up on sitting on the seat panting and was now lying down with its head hanging over the edge of the seat.

Now last Saturday, at about 11 a.m. or so was not a cool day. It was already in the 80s and inside the van, the temperature was likely a lot higher.

I know that leaving a dog in a hot car in this summer heat can lead to serious illness and even death. Leaving a dog in a hot car is dangerous and often deadly.

Leaving a dog in the car while you eat a meal, shop or run errands in warm weather can literally be a death sentence for your pet.

I would think that anyone who truly loves their pet would leave them at home if they plan to shop or have a meal in a restaurant.

Dogs are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness because they can only cool off by panting and through the pads in their feet.

Even on seemingly mild days, an enclosed car can be deadly. I've read information that when it is 72 degrees outside, a car's internal temperature can climb to 116 degrees within an hour.

Enclosed cars heat up quickly. When it's 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can rise to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 109 degrees in 20 minutes.

A dog's normal body temperature is between 101 to 102.5 degrees; a dog can only withstand a high body temperature for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death.

Cracking the windows has little effect on a car's internal temperature.

Already this year, there was a dog which was locked in a car while her owner visited an amusement park. When the dog was rescued, the temperature inside the car was more than 90 degrees and the dog's core temperature was nearly 106 degrees.

When dogs are left in cars, the exposure to excessive heat causes the body's cells to stop working properly and release dangerous chemicals, which can lead to nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage and even death. Essentially, all of the dog's organ systems shut down at once.

A a dog which is suffering from a heat-related illness will have excessive panting, excessive drooling, increased heart rate, trouble breathing, disorientation, can collapse or lose consciousness or have a seizure.

So if you love your dog, leave him at home during the summer. Leaving your window open a crack doesn't stop your car from heating up. Your dog may not be happy being left home, but in the long run, it may save his life.

I have three dogs of my own and while they love to go along for a ride in the car, I only take them along when I plan to take them with me or when I plan to stay in the car with them. I love my dogs and I want them to have the longest life possible. I would hate to think I hastened their death by leaving them in a hot car.

I thought I did the right thing by asking the restaurant to make an announcement, but after being berated by the owner for noticing her dogs were in distress, I won't bother telling anyone next time - I'll make that phone call instead.