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: I get this question from people all of the time. "He just loves his rides in the back of my pickup truck!". Our dogs seem preprogrammed sometimes to stick their heads out those windows. The amount of fascinating smells whipping by at 45 mph are just too much to resist!
Unfortunately, the soft tissue areas of a dogs ear, known as pinnae, can be repeatedly traumatized when beating against the edge of the window or the dogs' own skull causing inflammation and swelling. This may go completely unnoticed by the owner or actually turn into a trip to the veterinarian. Debris flying in the air also puts your dogs' eyes at risk. Something as innocuous as a ladybug can turn into a dangerous missile at 65 mph on the freeway. Veterinarians commonly treat scratches and puncture wounds from small rocks that cause windshield chips on your car but rip delicate face tissue on the dog.
Dogs are also capable of squeezing through tiny spaces. If they can get their entire skull through the gap in the window, they can also fall out. I heard a heart wrenching story from a client once about how he just wanted his dog to enjoy a nice summer ride but had to swerve suddenly to miss a stray cat. His dog fell out the window and was then run over by the very car he had been riding in!
We don't let our young children hang out car windows for very good reason. Dogs are best kept safely in the cabin of the vehicle and secured with a harness/seatbelt combination or crated.