"Don't let your dogs stick their heads out of a moving vehicle"

I was watching Animal Planet, when a little ASPCA public service announcement came on and told us that you should not allow your dog to hang his head out the window in the car because:

  1. Flying “debris” could hit him
    and 2. Fast moving or cold air could cause ear or lung infection

Now, at first I was going to post this to the Pit because my reaction is this -


But seeing as how I am not a veterenarian (just a life-long dog owner and lover), I decided that maybe I should test the waters in GQ before I make an ass out of myself; if the answer is overwhelmingly the way I think it will be, the mods can feel free to move it.

Not only is there the obvious viewpoint that as long as cars have been around, dogs have been sticking their head out of the window. What kind of “debris” are they talking about, here? I drove a top-less jeep for several years with minimal protection from the dangers of the outdoor air, and yeah, you might get a bug in the face every now and then, but nothing that will injure him (okay HYPOTHETICALLY, a very large bug could mess up his eye or choke him if swallowed, but that’s a stretch, don’t you think?) . I don’t see 2x4 planks flying around the road, do you?

Fast moving or cold air could cause ear and lung infection? WHAT. THE. HELL. Once, again: Jeep. Me. Drove. Many years. “Fast” and “Cold” air blowing in your face does not cause any health problems, trust me.

Am I just ill-informed or is a massive “WTF, Animal Planet?” called for?

FWIW, I’ve known hunters who refuse to let their dogs ride in the open in the backs of pickups, and won’t let them stick their head out in a moving vehicle. They claim that grit & dust will be driven into their nasal passages and ruin their sense of smell.


#1 is obviously not “bullshit”, it makes complete sense. Of course a dog (or your arm, or anything for that matter) is at greater risk for being struck while extended out the window of a moving vehicle.

#2 It’s also completely logical that a high speed airstream may cause irritation of any part of the body that is exposed. Said airstream probably also supplies dust, allergens, pathogens, etc. faster than does the relatively calm air in the car’s cabin.

While both statements made by the SPCA are true, for many (if not most) dog owners, this behavior falls under acceptable risk. After all, you could take this to the extreme and prevent the dog from doing anything that might potentially cause harm, but what kind of life is that for the animal?

I think that aside from your initial “bullshit” claim, you are basically right. AFAIK, There are breeds that are more susceptible to certain respiratory conditions; I would think it prudent to bar such dogs from extending their heads out the window of a moving car, especially if it were obvious that the animal suffered for it.

IMHO the head out the window behavior is probably less of a threat to the dog’s health than the urge to drink or frolic in [potentially contaminated] water.

The fact that these are hypothetically valid points doesn’t make them any less “bullshit” in my mind. That’s like saying “Well, technically the radiation of the TV is more than a person would encounter normally, so it is logically sound to say that watching TV is dangerous, although an acceptable risk”

It doesn’t matter. The risk is negligible. Yes, there’s a greater chance of getting hit by debris. But there IS no debris flying around roads to hit you! Yes, you get more dust and allergens in a shorter amount of time. But not so much more that the body’s natural defenses can’t keep up.

I stand by my “Bullshit.”

I think it’s worth pointing out that in a Jeep, you’re behind a windshield, which shielded you from the worst of the wind. That’s a far cry from bearing the full force of it. There’s not only all the dust and grit flying around, there’s crap like the little pebbles that other vehicles throw up sometimes. Those things can crack your windshield all to hell; what do you suppose they would do to your dog’s head?

As for the cold air thing, your experience doesn’t include getting full speed and coldness of the air around your car. Like I said before, the windshield protected you. There’s also the fact that what might not hurt a 150-lb human can, and often does, hurt a 40-lb dog.

Not to go off on a tangent, but having dogs all your life doesn’t mean you know dick about what is and isn’t risky for them. I’ve seen too many life-long dog owners to count who tried to treat mange by dipping the dog in kerosene, or who thought that getting one set of puppy shots fulfilled the dog’s lifelong vaccination needs, or who never vaccinated at all then wondered why their dogs kept getting parvo.

Letting your dog hang his head out the window of a moving car isn’t so risky that I’m going to yell at you that your dog is going to die if you keep that up, but it’s really not the best thing for your dog’s health.

CrazyCatLady, lifelong pet owner and veterinary technician

I don’t precisely understand the aerodynamics of it, but that is not always completely true. You’ll just have to trust my experience as a jeep driver (or not) on that one. You do have a point with the flying pebbles and gravel however.

Understood, that’s why I posed this as a GQ instead of a pit.

The biggest danger here is rocks and other rodaway debris kicked up by cars leading you. I’ve seen decent-sized rocks flung at high speed causing cracks in windshields. Imagine that hitting your dog’s head. Granted, it’s probably a small risk, but it’s a nonzero risk, too.

Crazycatlady, I was always told that the dogs eyes could be hurt by the wind short term by irritating them and drying them out and long term by increasing their odds of doggie glaucoma or cataracts … have you seen anything about that?

I don’t know about dogs but humans exposing themselves to high wind speeds for extended periods without protective eyewear will develop scarring on their eyes from their eyelashes and their vision will deteriorate.

You’re right about the short-term risks, but I don’t really know about the long-term risks. Opthalmology ain’t my thing, you understand. If I think about it, I’ll ask at work next week. Even if our opthalmologist isn’t available, one of his former techs is on emergency now.

Also, the OP isn’t the only one who’s ever been in an open car. Trust me, the wind you get behind the wheel is NOT the same wind you get sticking your head out the window of a closed cabin. Try the latter sometime at the speeds you usually drive your jeep (have someone else drive, for god’s sake), and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

I was a reckless youth: So of course, I’ve done that and worse (ever played jeep polo?) but it’s really kind of dumb for us to bicker about how hard the wind blows in a jeep, so I’ll just drop the issue.

Other than that: if you want to hear about animals travelling unsafely in vehicles, you should see one of my cats, who likes to jump on the backseat of my dad’s motorcycle and ride with him!

I don’t know what the risk is here, but your lungs do work better with warm, moist air then with cold, dry air. That’s what your nose is for, to help condition the air before it gets to your lungs. If you don’t believe me, go somewhere really cold and take several quick, deep breaths, your freezer might work. It’s not a good feeling.