Many people still remain unaware of the dangers of leaving dogs in locked cars on hot days. However the blunt fact it that a car can become as hot as an oven very quickly, even when it doesn’t feel that warm. When it’s 22 degrees, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.

Still not safe in the shade

In fact, many people still believe it is safe to leave a dog in a car on a warm day if the windows are left open. Or if they’re parked in the shade. Or if they have sunshades on the window. However, even in these circumstances it’s still very dangerous – potentially life threatening – situation for the dog.

The truth is that dogs in hot cars can suffer from heat stroke in as little as 15 minutes.

In 2018, the RSPCA’s emergency line in England & Wales received 8,290 reports from the concerned member of the public about dogs being left in hot cars. This was their busiest year for three years, reflecting a 5% increase from 2017 and a 15% rise from 2016.

Who you should call for swift response

However, the official advice is that rather than ringing the RSPCA, concerned members of the public should report emergencies to police by calling 999. This is because as officers can attend more quickly. The police also have power of entry to locked vehicles.

A campaign to raise awareness

This year, in a bid to prevent further pet fatalities,  a whole host of concerned groups have banded together to spread the message: Dogs Die in Hot Cars. These include: Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, British Parking Association, British Veterinary Association (BVA), Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, The Mayhew Animal Home, National Animal Welfare Trust, The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), PDSA, RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, #TeamOtisUK and Wood Green The Animals Charity.

Dogs die in hot cars campaign

Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign manager, Holly Barber from the RSPCA, said:

“It’s extremely concerning that despite all of our campaigning, dog owners are still ignoring our warnings and risking their pets’ lives by leaving them alone in cars on warm days. How many more dogs need to die before people realise that that split second decision – usually made due to convenience – could have life-changing consequences?”

Dogs and heat loss

Dogs are only able to lose heat by sweating from their nose and paws and by panting. When a dog is very hot, panting isn’t sufficient to stop them from overheating. They are therefore highly susceptible to overheating.

Do watch for signs of heat exhaustion, particularly if your dog is panting heavily and appears distressed on a hot day.

Overheating can occur even if your dog can access drinking water inside the vehicle.

In warm weather the inside of a parked car can get much hotter than the outside of the vehicle.

Short-nosed dogs (e.g. boxers, pugs), older and overweight dogs are particularly susceptible to getting overheated.

Traffic jams

Make sure you keep an eye on where the sunshine is coming in to the car.  If your dog is in the boot and the sun is streaming in, they can still overheat, especially if you get stuck in a long traffic jam.

The simple advice

Never leave your dog alone in a car on a warm day. Temperatures can rise to life-threatening levels extremely quickly and heat stroke can kill. If you see a dog in distress in a hot car, dial 999.

So, what to do if you see a dog in a car on a warm day

If the dog’s in danger, dialling 999 should always be the first step.

You can also call The RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line for advice on 0300 1234 999.

Remember, in an emergency, the RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough. Furthermore, even if they could attend the critical situation in time, they don’t hold powers of entry to open the car and release the dog. Therefore the police would need to be called anyway.

Additionally, the police will inform the RSPCA animal welfare assistance is required.

Read our further article on heat and dogs here:

First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. It is strongly advised that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

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