DEAR DIDI: I have dogs that love to stick their noses or heads out of the car windows when they ride with me. Is that bad for them? They both are floppy eared dogs. -Concerned in Manteca, CA
DEAR CONCERNED: Kudos for thinking to ask this question. People usually don’t think about it until after something bad has happened. “But he just loves his rides in the back of my pickup truck!”. When I ask the pickup truck driver if he is ever concerned about his dog falling out, they usually respond in one of two ways. Either, “He won’t fall out”, or “It only happens once.” Sometimes it seems like our dogs are preprogrammed to stick their heads out those windows. I suppose the amount of fascinating smells whipping by at 45 mph are just too much for them to resist!
Unfortunately, the soft tissue areas of a dog’s ear, known as pinnae, can be repeatedly traumatized when beating against the edge of the window or against the dog’s own skull, causing inflammation and swelling. This frequently goes completely unnoticed by the owner or sometimes turns into a trip to the veterinarian. Debris flying in the air also puts your dog’s eyes at risk. Something as innocuous as a ladybug can turn into a dangerous missile at 65 mph on the freeway. Small rocks cause windshield chips and cracks daily but those same rocks rip delicate ear and facial tissue on a dog.
Some dogs are also capable of squeezing through tiny spaces. If they can get their entire skull through the gap in the window, they could potentially fall out of the car altogether. I heard a heart wrenching story from a client once about how he just wanted his dog to enjoy a nice summer car ride. He rolled the window down halfway as he had done a hundred times before. This car ride, however, had an unpredictable turn of events. A stray cat raced into the street out of nowhere causing the man to swerve suddenly. The sudden swerve caused his little dog to fall out of the window and run over by the very car he had been riding in! My client, like many other dog owners, didn’t think something like this could happen until it was too late.
We don’t let our young children hang their heads out of car windows for very good reason. Responsible pet owners secure their four legged family members safely in the cabin of the vehicle. If you have a rambunctious pooch there are several ways to secure him in the car for his own safety, as well as, the humans. Dogs should be under verbal or physical control to prevent them from jumping in the driver’s lap suddenly or impeding the range of movement of the steering wheel. Look into special car seats for smaller dogs that them in order to look out the window comfortably and safely. There is question as to the safety of canine car seat belts/harnesses. Some recent crash tests with canine dummies show many, if not all of them, failing in an accident. Securing your dog will also prevent sudden escapes when the car door opens. Crating inside the cabin of the vehicle is also a safe and secure method for your dog to enjoy rides! -email your questions to email@example.com