Why is leaving your dog in the car a problem?
When the weather is hot outside, the temperature in a closed parked car is even hotter. Even when the outside temperature is just 20 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside of a closed car in the sun can rise to 45 degrees Celsius or even more in a matter of minutes.
Dogs regulate their body temperatures by panting, and in a small enclosed space such as a car, a panting dog will simply not be able to get enough fresh air to keep their body temperature at a safe level.
Dogs can become dangerously overheated inside of a vehicle (or a shed or any other enclosed space) within just a few minutes, potentially leading to dehydration, sunstroke, and even death.
Dogs that are overweight, have a thick, heavy coat or have a squashed up face and brachycephalic muzzle will overheat faster than other dogs, but no dog is immune to the high risk of heatstroke when left in an overheating car.
Heatstroke in dogs
The progression of heatstroke in dogs begins with heavy panting, excessive salivation and a raised pulse rate, and quickly progresses to lethargy, fainting or collapse and unconsciousness, eventually resulting in death if untreated.
If you find that your dog or another dog is suffering from heatstroke, your immediate course of action should be to remove your dog to a cooler area and work on reducing their body temperature by offering water to drink and bathing them in cool but not cold water. You should also contact your vet for further advice, and take your dog to the vet immediately if they have passed out, become sick or lost control of their bowels or bladder, or do not begin to cool down and recover within a short space of time.
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Is it ok to leave my dog in the car with a window open?
Many dog owners assume that they can counteract the onset of heatstroke and leave their dog in the car safely by leaving a window partially open or providing a bowl of water. This is not the case. An open window will not provide enough cooling or ventilation to keep the car cool for your dog, and a bowl of water may help to stave off the early stages of dehydration but it will do nothing to prevent heatstroke.
Put simply, open windows, bowls of water, sunshades and other means of attempting to keep your dog and your car cool will not prevent the onset of heatstroke, or make your car any safer for your dog to be left alone in.
What to do if you see a dog closed inside of a car
Hopefully by now all dog owners will understand why it is not appropriate to leave their own dogs unattended within a car, but what should you do if you spot a dog locked in an unattended car in hot weather?
- Your first course of action should be to try to find the owner of the car and the dog. If the car in question is parked at a supermarket or shopping centre, asking them to make a tannoy announcement to contact the owners of the vehicle is the first step to take.
- If the owners of the car cannot be contacted or do not return to the car quickly, contact the police as an emergency to attend the vehicle.
- If the police are unable to attend, contact the RSPCA’s cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.
- Where you stand legally if you break into a car to rescue an overheating dog is something of a grey area; you should not take any action to gain access to the car without first speaking to the police.
- Try to locate the owners and escalate procedures to have the dog removed from the car via the police and/or RSPCA as soon as you find a dog in a hot car. Even a dog that appears ok upon your arrival can quickly become distressed, and you should begin taking action to have the dog removed from the car as soon as possible to minimise the chances of this happening.
Dogs, hot cars and the law
If a dog suffers or dies as a result of being left in a hot car, their owner or caregiver can be prosecuted for neglect or cruelty under animal welfare laws. Successful prosecution for neglect or cruelty can lead to jail time, fines and being banned from keeping animals in the future.
Don?t leave your dog unattended in a car for any reason; it’s just not worth the risk.