As North Carolina approaches one of the hottest weeks of 2014, pet owners have an even greater responsibility of keeping their furry friends cool and safe from hyperthermia.

“What pet owners might think is a safe span of time, ‘I’m just going to run into the store for a few minutes,’ can even that quickly be fatal for your pet.”

That’s Sharon Zeigler, Manager for Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital, who says the hospital often gets cases of heat stroke in animals left in cars, and many of the animals end up dying, even after aggressive treatment.

Zeigler told WCHL owners should re-think leaving their pets in vehicles while on “quick runs” during the summer months as temperatures inside vehicles can rapidly increase within minutes, becoming dangerously warm.

If you are about anything over 50 degrees in weather, your car will heat up very rapidly, certainly in the summer – it can be life threatening,” Zeigler says. “Animals don’t sweat like we do except for some minor sweating that they do through the footpads of their feet but they cool off by panting. But if the air around them is not cooler than their own body temperature then panting doesn’t work.”

Leaving a pet in a hot car can have dire consequences, for both the animal and its owner.

According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center, currently 14 states have made it illegal to leave a pet in a locked car in extreme conditions. Although North Carolina is not on that list of states, the General Assembly has made strides to protect pets from the summer heat as well.

General Statute 14-363.3, allows rescue workers to retrieve a pet from a vehicle under harsh or extreme weather conditions at the expense of the owner.

Owners in violation of the statute can be charged with a class one misdemeanor, which can result in a fine and up to 60 days in jail. Animal cruelty charges can also be added.

Zeigler also says it is important for owners to recognize abnormal behaviors after a long period of heat exposure in their pets, which can be a strong non-verbal communicator of a more serious condition.

“There are some factors that can predispose dogs and other pets to heatstroke: if they are elderly, if they are overweight and if they are the smush-nose breed like bulldogs and pugs, they don’t exchange air as well so they tend to heat up faster.”

While the summer sun is yet shining, pets are also susceptible to painful conditions while walking on concrete asphalt as the padding on their feet is also sensitive to high temperatures.

If you notice symptoms in your pet such as: excessive panting or difficulty breathing, and increased heart and respiratory rate, difficulty walking and weakness, your pet may be suffering from a heat-related disorder.

To treat a pet with high exposure to heat, remove the pet from the car and get them into air-conditioning immediately, apply cool water, not ice, to the animals and contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

For more information on the health of your pet and the Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital in Durham, visit