Dogs in Hot Cars: Spring Weather Warning

brown dog in car with window open so it isn't hot

With spring in swing the warmer weather is starting to make its appearance. But while you’re basking in the sunshine, take a moment to remind yourself of the dangers of leaving cats and dogs in hot cars.

It’s true most of us know we shouldn’t do it. That said, it’s all too easy to bend the rules and leave pets in the car as we pop into a shop for milk and bread. Let’s remind ourselves why this shouldn’t be done.

What exactly are the risks, at what temperature do you need to worry, and how long can you safely leave cats and dogs in hot cars? Or other animals, for that matter.

Here’s an overview.

Is it really dangerous to leave dogs in hot cars?

Yes! It really is dangerous to leave dogs in hot cars.

You might think it’s harmless, but dogs can quickly get too hot in locked cars. Unlike humans, they’re unable to sweat except through their paws. This means they become heat stressed more quickly than us, and can die if left alone in hot cars.

It only takes a body temperature increase of two degrees for dogs to suffer heatstroke. This sensitivity to heat is also why you need to exercise caution when you’re out and about in summer – making sure to keep your dog safe at the beach or on walks, for instance.

Though many dog owners are aware of this risk, it’s easy to under estimate how quickly the situation can become serious. If it’s around 25ºC outside, which feels mild to most humans, it’ll take just 10 minutes for the car cabin to reach around 37ºC. Dogs can withstand a body temperature of around 41ºC for only a very short period. After this, they suffer brain damage and then death.

Why dogs in particular? While other animals do sometimes get locked in cars, it’s usually dogs who are the victims of this particular pet parenting mistake. Presumably, this is because dogs are more likely to accompany us on trips out of the house.

When can I leave my dog in the car?

Warnings around dogs in hot cars are typically only issued around summer. But as you now know, even fairly mild temperatures can be very dangerous for animals left in cars. So when exactly is it ok to leave a dog in the car?

If the temperature is above freezing and below 20ºC, you can probably leave your pet in the car for a short period as long as you park out of the sun and make some adjustments to ensure your pet is comfortable, such as:

  • Park in an underground garage or in the shade.
  • Use reflective windscreen and window shades.
  • Open the windows and sun roof as much as possible.
  • Leave cool water for your pet to drink.
  • Spray their inner thighs, neck, and stomach with cool water before leaving.
  • Keep the car as cool as possible until you have to turn it off.
  • Make sure your pet isn’t already hot or dehydrated before you leave them in the car.

Keep in mind that this is only a guideline, and it’s always best not to leave your pets in the car at all. On top of that, this is only for healthy adult dogs. Regardless of whether it’s a cool day, don’t do this with any dog who’s young, old, or otherwise in poor health.

black labrador in hot car looking out of closed window

What to do if you have to leave dogs in a hot car

It’s never recommended to leave your dog in hot cars alone. We’ve outlined some steps above which can help limit the risk of your dog getting heat stroke. But if this is a predicament you face often, you might need to find ways to ensure your car’s temperature stays cool even if you’re not inside.

Of course, the best way would be to keep the air conditioning running. But that’s often not a viable option. However, there are some other gadgets you can use to help keep your pet cool and calm.

A pet cooling mat is a good start – they can be up to 10ºC cooler than room temperature. You should also use light-coloured car seat covers if possible. Dark interiors and leather absorb more heat than light coloured fabrics. An expandable car window vent also allows you to roll your windows down further than usual and circulate more air around the car.

On top of that, you might want to invest in an interior temperature monitor. It isn’t infallible, but means you can check the temperature of your car on your phone for some added peace of mind if you need to leave your dog alone briefly for some reason.

But our best suggestion? Try to stick to pet friendly places wherever possible, and take your dog along instead of leaving them car-bound. Read more about pet safety in cars here, so you’re prepared for all eventualities when your dog comes on an outing with you.

Pet insurance for pet parenting mishaps and more

Hopefully, you’ll never need to visit a vet because you left your dog in a hot car. But if they do overheat on a day at the beach, get into a brawl with another dog, or dig through the rubbish and swallow something they shouldn’t, pet insurance is there to help.

With a dog insurance policy, you don’t need to fork out for the entire vet bill yourself. So you can make decisions based on your dog’s welfare, not your wallet.

Time for a quick quote? Click here.

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