Every year, dogs suffer and die when their owners/guardians make the mistake of leaving them in a parked car—even for “just a minute”—while they run an errand. Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs. On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes.
Dogs should never be left in a car on a hot day – even in the shade or with windows open. Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.
If you are taking a dog on a car journey try to avoid travelling during the hottest part of the day. Ensure the dog is not in direct sunlight, and take plenty of water. On long trips, stop frequently, they should be drinking little and often, not gulping large quantities. If you have to leave the car for a comfort break, you should consider whether to take your dog if you don’t have a companion to leave with them.
Dogs cool down by panting, which fills the air with moisture. In a hot car they can’t evaporate enough water quickly enough to cool down, plus the air can only hold so much moisture. Even with a boot or window open if there’s no breeze it could still get too hot for your dog. Never allow your dog to hang their head out of the window when driving.
Watch for heatstroke symptoms such as restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination. If a dog shows any of these symptoms, get him or her out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned vehicle, and then to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to transport the dog yourself, take it into an air-conditioned building if possible and call a veterinarian and tell them it is an emergency.
If you do see a dog in distress please contact your local police station or the RSPCA 24 hour national cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999.