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Why you should never leave your dog in the car

Every responsible pet owner knows the risks that come with leaving dogs in cars, but the emergency services are still called frequently to deal with such situations. To equip our pet parents with all of the information they need, we’ll run through why it’s never a good idea to leave your dog in the car, whatever the circumstances.

First, let’s dismantle some commonly believed falsehoods about leaving dogs in cars:

  • It’s only an issue if I leave my dog in the car on a hot day.

  • It’s not dangerous if I park in the shade as the car will stay cool.

  • The car will stay cool if I leave the window open.

  • If I’m only out of the car for a moment, it’s not long enough for the car to get too hot.

It can often be the case that well-intentioned and very loving owners put their dog in a dangerous situation because they’re not aware of the facts.

Here are the main facts you should know:

A parked car will heat up like an oven. If it’s a 24°C day, the inside of the car can reach up to 34°C in around 10 minutes.

Dogs don’t sweat in the same way as humans. They sweat through their paws, rather than through their whole body, and so panting is how they regulate their temperature and cool down. Not forgetting they’re wearing a fur coat, year round!

If you park in the shade or leave your window open a crack, it will make virtually no difference to the car’s temperature.

Heatstroke can cause death in as little as 15 minutes. In a very short time, it can also cause serious brain damage.

In a nutshell, we shouldn’t ever leave our dog in the car. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, and even if it’s a relatively cool day.

What should I do if I come across a dog trapped in a hot car?

Look for signs of heatstroke (symptoms like excessive panting and drooling, if the dog is collapsed, vomiting or appears drowsy) and ring 999 immediately.

If you don’t think the emergency services will arrive quickly enough, and you believe the dog’s life is in immediate danger, then before you break into the car, take photos or video footage of the dog and gather a witness who will testify that your course of action was necessary. Advise the police what you intend to do, as without proper justification, you may be vulnerable to a charge of criminal damage.

As soon as the dog has been removed from the car, take them to a shaded, cool area. Don’t use ice or cold water on them, as this could cause the dog to go into shock, instead, douse them will cool water or apply damp towels.

Give the dog small amounts of drinking water, and once their breathing has become steady, take them to the nearest vet and let them know it’s an emergency.