Dogs die in hot cars
Amazingly some pet owners still do not realise dogs die in hot cars.
Within lockdown easing in May, we anticipate that many will be using their cars more often – but we urge owners to be extra vigilant about not leaving their dog in the car, especially as the weather warms up.
In particular, some reopened businesses are no longer dog-friendly due to Covid-19, so we would urge owners to check ahead whether rules around welcoming dogs have changed, and to never ‘risk it’ by leaving their dog in their car while they shop, particularly as social distancing means longer queues and one-way systems, so dogs could be left for much longer in vehicles in staggering temperatures.
With some lockdown measures still in place, we’ve also got advice on how to keep your dog cool at home here.
Dogs in hot cars and travelling tips
Is it dangerous to leave your dog in a hot car?
Yes. Never leave your dog in a parked car on a warm day. Dogs mainly control their body temperature by panting. When a dog is very hot, panting isn’t enough to stop them from overheating. In warm weather the temperature inside a parked car can climb rapidly and will be much higher than outside of the vehicle. Dogs left alone in a car on a hot day can quickly become dehydrated, develop heat stroke or even die.
How long can I safely leave my dog in a car on a warm day?
We would not recommend that you leave your dog unattended on a warm day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Heatstroke can happen quickly and can be fatal.
If I park in the shade, or leave a window open, can I leave my dog in a car on a warm day?
No. The temperature in your car can still rise to dangerous levels, even if you leave the window open, park in the shade or put a sunshade on your window.
If I leave the dog a bowl of water, is it ok to leave a dog in a car on a warm day?
No. Heat stroke can still happen if your dog has access to water.
What are the signs a dog has heatstroke or is in distress?
- Heavy panting
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- The dog appearing drowsy
What should I do if I see a dog trapped in a hot car?
- Even if the dog appears well, they can deteriorate quickly, so take action immediately.
- Make an assessment on the urgency of the situation. If the dog is distressed, or you are concerned that it could soon become distressed, dial 999 and ask for the police.
If the dog is not yet distressed
- When the car is parked at a supermarket, shopping centre or an event, see if you can find someone to stay with the dog while you look for someone to make an announcement on the tannoy. Don’t forget that you will need:
- The car type and colour
- Registration number
- Rough location
- Call the RSPCAs 24-hour cruelty line for further advice on 03001234999
- If you are unable to reach the owner, or if you are concerned about the dog at any point, dial 999.
Can I legally break a car window to save the dog?
If the police are unable to attend and the dog is in distress, some people may begin to think about breaking a window to rescue the dog. Be aware that this may be classed as criminal damage and you may need to defend your actions in court.
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).
Documenting your actions if trying to rescue a dog from a hot car
If you think the dog is in danger dial 999 and speak to the police first and ask for their advice. If it is necessary for you to rescue the dog, document your actions as best as possible in case you need to defend yourself in court:
- Take photos, or better still a video of the dog in the car.
- Take the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses.
- Ask someone to video you breaking in to the car on their mobile phone and ask them to send it to you afterwards.
- Remain on the phone to the police while giving a running commentary so that it is recorded.
- Write a detailed report as soon as you are home to document what happened.
Helping a dog that’s been in a hot car
If the dog is very unwell or unconscious it will need to be seen immediately by a vet. You can find a local vet here. It is important that you start to cool the dog while traveling to the vet – this can make a big difference to whether the dog survives.
Dogs suffering from heatstroke should ideally have their temperatures lowered gradually. If a dog is cooled too rapidly they can go into shock. Very cold water should not be used if there are other alternatives available. If there is nothing else to hand, then it is best to use the cold water, but with extra care. Using ice cold water can narrow blood vessels, limiting heat loss, while cooling a dog rapidly till they shiver can generate more heat.
Below are some tips on how to lower a dog’s temperature.
- Move the dog out of the heat and in to the shade.
- Lay them down on a cool floor
- Offer them small amounts of water to drink.
- Fan them with cool air.
- Put the dog in an air conditioned car
- Carefully pour water over the dog’s body, or sponge them if water is limited. Particularly focus on their neck, tummy and inner thighs. Ideally continue to do this until their breathing returns to normal.
- Call a vet for further advice and to get the dog checked over.