Dogs and Hot Cars – Respecting the Heat

Posted by Zena Conkey on May 29, 2020

Never leave your dog alone in a car on a hot day. If you do see a dog in distress or left alone in a locked car in warm temperatures, dial 999 asap. 

Most of us dog owners at some point have left our beloved pet in a car for a very short while. We trust that our best friend will be fine whilst we pop into the shops or a friend’s house.

Over the last couple of years the risks of doing just that have been highlighted in many publicity campaigns. The reason for such publicity is that dogs can die in a hot car within a surprisingly short amount of time. Such canine deaths have occurred not only in pet dog homes but also professional dog training and handling environments such as the Metropolitan police force.

Such a tragic death is heart breaking for a dog owner or carer. A sudden death like this is an incident that no loving dog owner will ever recover from, which is exactly why many groups are working hard to raise awareness of the serious risk to any dog left inside a vehicle on a hot day. Even with the windows open a crack, or left with some water, any dog can still die after only a few minutes of being unable to leave a hot car.

The ability of our weather to do a complete turnaround from rain and chilly winds to blazing sunshine does not help, especially up here in Scotland. We can be tricked by such a climate that the dog will be fine for half an hour only to realise that the car has become a greenhouse on our return.

The Kennel Club and Dogs Today Magazine teamed up in order to raise awareness on how easily a dog in a hot car can become a fatal accident. The campaign is called ‘ Don’t cook your dog and makes people aware of the risks.

On a warm day of around 22 degrees the temperature inside a car, even if it's in the shade, can raise to well over 47 degrees Celsius within just one hour. This heat would literally cook a dog whilst it is still alive. Unable to sweat as a human can in order to cool down the dog can only pant and perspire a little through their paws. Neither is enough to sufficiently cool him in extreme heat like this.

What to do if you see a dog in a car on a warm day

If you see a dog in a hot car that seems to be struggling and there is no owner around then it is important to call the police on an emergency number, 999 in the UK. The police have power of entry and will contact the RSPCA or SSPCA if animal welfare assistance is needed.

How else can you help?

  • Many dog owners and lovers have saved dogs lives by breaking car windows to get a sick animal out of a hot car. This may be your first instinct if the police are too far away, just be aware that this can be classed as criminal damage and you may need to defend your actions in court.
  • When on the phone to the police, find out how long they will be and if you think the dog is in a critical condition and feel you may need to break into the car to free them, make sure to tell the police what you plan to do and why. Take pictures of the vehicle with the dog inside, and take note of witnesses names and numbers. "The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971)."
  • Once the dog has been freed, check for signs of heatstroke. These signs are good knowledge to have, check out our other blog post on what heatstroke symptoms to look out for and what to do. Including moving them to a shaded area, placing them on cool wet towels, letting them have small sips of cool water, and take them to the vet.
  • If the dog does not have heat stroke, remember to make a note of the car's registration number. If you feel like this was a dangerous situation, you can still report the incident to the police even if the owner returns.
  • If you are at a shop, you can ask the company to make an announcement over the speakers to alert the owner of the situation.
  • Team up with other members of the public, someone should stay with the dog if you need to leave to search for help.
  • You can also call the cruelty line for advice although 999 is priority in emergencies. 03000 999 999 SSPCA and 0300 1234 999 RSPCA

Caravans and glass roofed conservatories are also capable of reaching temperatures that are high enough to cause distress, and sickness, they can even be fatal to a hot dog.

So think to yourself before you leave the house. Even if it’s only going to be ten minutes, alone in the car, is it worth taking the dog along for the ride? Why not leave him at home where you know he will be safe in the shade. If you are leaving your pet in a caravan or even the conservatory at home be aware that, even in the winter, the sun may come out whilst you are away leaving your pet to try and cope with unbearable heat.

Do your dog a favour and help him by giving him places to stay cool in the summer months. He will be much happier for it. So will you because- by being aware- you know that you are not putting him at any avoidable risk.