Dogs, cars and heatstroke

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When the weather gets warmer, lots of us pack up the car and head out and about. But when you add in a dog, travelling in summer gets trickier. Is it OK to leave your dog in the car while you run a few errands? The answer is always ‘no’ – our Head Vet Sean is here to explain why.

Can I leave my dog in the car?

Anytime the temperature outside is above 20 degrees, it’s dangerous to leave your dog in the car. Cars act like greenhouses: they trap the heat so it gets much hotter inside than out.  That’s bad news for our furry friends, who can’t sweat to cool themselves down.

Can’t I leave my dog in the car for a few minutes?

Dogs can get heatstroke in 15 minutes – even if you park in the shade, wind the windows down, and leave a bowl of water. Remember, what’s comfortable for you can still be dangerously warm for your fur-covered friend. If they don’t get heatstroke, being in an uncomfortably hot space is still likely to leave your dog anxious and distressed. It’s really not worth the risk.

Dogs in hot cars

How can I tell if my dog has heatstroke?

Heatstroke is about more than your dog feeling hot and bothered – it’s a condition that can be fatal. If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, take them straight to the vet. Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Rapid or laboured breathing
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lying on their side
  • Lethargy
  • Seeming unresponsive or quiet
  • Seeming agitated or stressed
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of coordination

Related blog: how to keep a hot dog cool in hot weather

Is my dog prone to heatstroke?

Dogs lose heat by panting. That makes dogs with short airways more prone to heatstroke because they can’t lose heat so efficiently. This includes brachycephalic, or flat-faced, breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers.

Is it illegal to leave my dog in the car?

There’s no law against leaving your dog unattended, but the Animal Welfare Act 2006 lists leaving a dog in a hot car as an example of animal mistreatment. That means you could be prosecuted for neglect if you leave your dog in a car unattended on a warm day.

What should I do if I see a dog in a hot car?

If you see a dog shut inside a hot car and you can’t find their owner, call the police – especially if the dog is showing signs of distress. Wait with the car until the police arrive.

Dog car safety:  our top tips for hot weather

When you’ve got a dog, car travel takes a bit of forward planning – especially when it’s hot out. Here are a few things to consider before you set off:

  • Get the car as cool as possible before you set off
  • Take plenty of water
  • For long journeys, plan dog-friendly stops along the way so they get time to cool down
  • Never leave your dog in the car unattended

Got a question about keeping your pooch cool in warm weather? Our vet and nutritionist team can give you some tips. Get in touch at hello@tails.com.

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