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The facts about dogs in hot cars

We’ve all heard the warning about dogs in hot cars. So why is it that the emergency services still have to be called to hundreds of cases each year, where the life of a much loved family pet is at risk?
Here are some commonly believed falsehoods about dogs and cars:

  • It’s only dangerous to leave my dog in a car on a hot day.
  • If I park in the shade, the car will stay cool.
  • If I leave the window open, the car will stay cool.
  • If I’m only popping out for a couple of minutes, that’s not long enough for the car to heat up.

Well intentioned and loving owners can put their dog in a seriously dangerous situation, simply because they are unaware of the facts, which are:

  • A parked car heats up like an oven. On an 24°c day, the interior of the car can reach 34°c in 10 minutes.
  • Dogs don’t sweat through their whole bodies like us, but only through their paws, and so they have to pant to cool themselves down. Not to mention the big furry coat!
  • Leaving the window open a few inches or parking in the shade makes virtually no difference to the temperature inside the car.
  • Dogs can die from heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes, and heatstroke can cause serious brain damage in a very short time.

The bottom line is, don’t leave your dog in the car. Even for a few minutes, and even on a relatively cool day. If you’re still not convinced, try it yourself, with a fur coat on!
What should you do if you come across a dog who is trapped in a hot car?

  • If the dog is showing any signs of heatstroke, such as excessively panting and drooling, is collapsed or vomiting, or appears drowsy and lethargic, dial 999 immediately.
  • If the emergency services won’t be able to arrive quickly enough and you think that the dog’s life is in immediate danger, then before you break into the car, take photos or footage of the dog, and gather at least one witness who can testify that it was the necessary course of action. Let the police know what you intend to do, as unfortunately without proper justification you could be vulnerable to a charge of criminal damage.
  • Once the dog has been removed from the car, take him immediately to a shaded or air conditioned place. Never used iced or cold water as this can cause a hot dog to go into shock – instead douse the dog with cool water or apply wet towels, particularly to his groin area, stomach, chest and paws. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water. Once his breathing becomes steady again, take the dog to the nearest vet and let them know it is an emergency.
Andrew Bucher
House Vet in MedicAnimal