F.I.D.O.: Keeping your dog safe in and around your car.

What is the safest place for my dog to travel in the car?

If your dog is exceptionally smart, like our dogs, consider having him do all the driving while you nap in the kennel. Otherwise, the safest place for dogs to ride is in a travel crate in the far back. A second choice is the far back of your wagon or SUV with a secure gate installed between the back seat and the cargo compartment. Both of these solutions keep Fido from jumping into the passenger compartment and licking your eyeballs while you're trying to merge onto a highway and keep him from flying into the back of your head if you have to stop short. Editor's Note: They also allow you to leave groceries in the back seat of the car without coming back to "wrappers."

If you own a Toyota Echo and you have no cargo area, the back seat is fine. But consider using a restraint designed specifically for dogs. Whatever you do, never have your dog ride in the front passenger seat. In an accident, the airbag could literally send his muzzle down his gullet, if you catch our drift.

You mean, there really are dog seatbelts?

There really are.

Should I be using one?

No, but you might consider one for your dog.

It's ironic that most dog owners will buckle up, but will forget about their dogs. But, dogs need seat belts of their own. During a quick stop or in an accident, a loose dog becomes a missile -- which is not good for you, and definitely not good for your dog. You don't often hear about it, but it's a sad fact that unrestrained dogs die in car accidents every year.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine actually did a study of dog seatbelts. They rated the "Ruff Rider Roadie" the best of the bunch. It costs about $40. You can order one by visiting the Ruff Rider Web site or by calling (888) 783-3743.

Can I leave my dog alone in the car?

Of course you can... but we don't recommend it. Here's why. First of all, you're exposing your dog to the possibility of pet theft. Believe it or not, thousands of dogs are stolen from cars each year.

Second, cars heat up -- even on days that seem cool to you. Regardless of whether the windows are cracked, the temperature inside a car can get over 120 degrees in minutes.

So what... your dog can sweat, right? Well... not quite. Dogs only sweat through their tongues and the pads of their paws. In other words, it's hard for them to compensate when the temperature gets hot. In a matter of minutes, they can succumb to heat stroke.

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Okay, that sounds grim. What are the signs of dog heat stroke?

If you see heavy panting, and your dog isn't reading "Play Dog," that's a bad sign. Also, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, bright red gums, unsteadiness or vomiting, may indicate that your dog may have heat stroke. You will need to act immediately to save your pet from permanent disability or death.

What should I do if I see a dog that has heat stroke?

Move your dog to a shady spot, and pour cool water all over his body. Use ice packs if you have them. Let your dog drink a small amount of water. And, get your dog to a vet immediately!

For more information:
The Humane Society of the United States, "Don't Leave Your Pet in a Parked Car.", a website that can help people save dogs from dying in hot cars this summer.

What should I do if I see a dog locked in a hot car?

Teach him to start the car and set the AC to high. Then give him a biscuit.

That may take a while, however. If the situation is more urgent, do not hesitate to call 911 and ask for a police officer or the local animal control agency. Tell the operator you have an animal emergency.

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My dog loves sticking his head out the window. Is there a problem with that?

You try it. It works fine... right up until the moment that a bee hits you in the eye at 70 mph.

Admittedly, driving along while your dog sticks his head out the window and his ears flop in the breeze is exceptionally fun... but it's really not a good idea. A dog's ears, nose, and eyes are especially sensitive. Yes, they're too dumb to know that, but now you know it.

If your pooch insists on the "window treatment," at the very least invest in a pair of Doggles®, which provide protection from foreign objects, wind, and UV light.

Even if your dog doesn't get hit by an errant pebble, dogs do jump from moving cars if the right reason comes along. And then how would you feel? We rest our case.

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Is it true that antifreeze is deadly to dogs?

You bet. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which turns into crystals in your dog's kidney, resulting in acute kidney failure and sometimes even death. In fact, as little as a tablespoon can be deadly. To make matters worse, antifreeze also tastes sweet to dogs.

For these reasons, it's extremely important to keep antifreeze away from dogs. If you notice a leak, mop it up immediately and spread an absorbent material like cat litter or sawdust onto the ground to prevent your dog from licking the area.

An important note: Antifreeze isn't just in coolant any more. Many de-icing windshield-cleaning products contain antifreeze as well.

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Is there any antifreeze that's safe for my dog?

Not if you're planning to sprinkle it on his breakfast. But, there are brands of antifreeze made from propylene glycol -- Sierra and Sta-Clean to name two -- which are less likely to be fatal if ingested by your dog (or, at least, it takes more of the stuff to be fatal). Check the label to see if an antifreeze is "pet safe." Ask your mechanic to use propylene glycol antifreeze if he can. When in doubt, ask your vet for a specific suggestion.

At a minimum, make sure you know what kind of antifreeze you're using in your car. Sometimes the so-called "safe" antifreeze can interfere with the tests for conventional, ethylene glycol poisoning.

For more information:
The lowdown on antifreeze and its dangerous ingredients (CarTalk Column)

What if my Fido gets into antifreeze?

Call your vet immediately. Ask the vet to see your dog as soon as possible. Safe antidotes do exist for antifreeze poisoning, but your pet's doctor should administer them.

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What about other hazards?

Dogs are curious. Most garages are filled with all sorts of interesting smells. Unfortunately, it's easy for toxic chemicals to get on a dog's fur and pads or be ingested by eating or licking.

The best solution is to prevent problems by eliminating dangers. Walk around your garage, noting everything that's at ground level. (Or, do what Tommy does: get down on your knees and walk around, sniffing everything in sight. Stop when you look up and see your wife.)

Common hazards include motor oil, gas, brake oil, batteries, and household chemicals like paint, turpentine and busted Neil Sedaka eight-tracks. Place anything that might be considered hazardous up high, or wrap it up in a plastic garbage bag.

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What if it's too late? How do I know if my dog got into something?

Signs of poisoning vary, depending upon the specific poison that gets ingested. Some common signs and symptoms include excessive thirst, panting, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, paralysis, convulsions and increased urination.

If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs or symptoms, call your vet immediately. If you can't reach your vet, call the Animal Poison Control Hotline at (800) 548-2423.You'll need a credit card number, but the hotline will give you lots of valuable information, and will let you know if veterinarian care is needed.

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Can dogs get carbon monoxide poisoning?

Definitely. A lot of vets believe that many cases of "carsickness" in dogs are actually a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Avoid the risk by never leaving your dog in an idling car. If your dog does develop signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, the prescription is simple: Get him into fresh air immediately, then get him to a vet.

My dog likes to go under the car, especially on hot days. You got a problem with that?

We do. All cars will eventually leak fluids. And when they do, all sorts of toxic crud will drip onto the ground. Do you want your dog under there when that happens?

Besides, what about when your visiting grandmother-in-law drives off to the bowling alley without looking under the car?

The best solution is to train your dog not to go under a car. Scold him by spraying water, yelling or throwing a soft object at him when you see him under the car. It sounds mean, but it's worth it. Besides, it won't take long to train him. We got our producer, Dougie Berman, to stop sleeping under Tom's 1952 MG TD after only 200 or so of these episodes.

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For more information:
Petco's "Dog Proofing Your Garage"