Help A Dog Locked In A Hot Car

Summer is right around the corner along with scorching temperatures.  The “dog days” of summer can be dangerous for dogs–especially those left inside hot cars. We should never leave a dog in the car when it is 90 degrees or higher, but is it okay on a regular warm day, parked in the shade where it is cool?  Is it okay if the windows are cracked, there is a breeze coming in and the car isn’t in direct sun?

Think again!  A car is like a greenhouse.  It traps the heat of the sun even when it is parked in the shade and the windows are cracked.  Every year, countless numbers of dogs perish after they are left in locked cars while their owners are working, visiting, shopping, or running errands.

A study performed on the internal temperature of a car on days where the temperature ranged between 72 and 96 degrees could be raised by an average of 40 degrees within a half hour.  It didn’t matter if the windows were cracked or not.  So don’t think you can leave your dog in the car, crack the windows and everything will be okay.

If you see a dog in distress in a hot car, call the local animal control agency, police or 911 immediately.  You should also try to find the owner if that is a possibility.  Animals in distress show signs such as:

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory arrest

There are at least 14 states and many municipalities that have laws specifically addressing the problem of leaving animals in cars in extreme temperatures.  Law enforcement officials are often times authorized to enter a vehicle and remove the animal.  Even states without these laws may consider leaving an animal in an enclosed car to be animal cruelty.

A dog can suffer from heat stroke quickly.  It might only take 10 minutes and the dog will be near death.  How can you help a dog that is suffering from heat stroke?  First take the dog’s temperature rectally if possible.  A body temperature of around 105 degrees means that the animal is probably experiencing heat stroke.  Place the pet in a tub of cool running water or spray with a hose.  The cool water has to make contact with the skin…not just drip off the dog’s coat.  Get the stomach and inside of the legs thoroughly wet.  Run cool water over their tongue and mouth.  To know when to stop cooling the dog, take their rectal temperature again if possible.  A safe temperature is about 103 degrees.  Large dogs cool down more slowly than small dogs.  Once the dog’s temperature reaches 103 or 104 degrees stop cooling him.  If you continue to cool the dog the cooling effects will continue to bring his temperature down even further.  Take the dog to a veterinary clinic immediately.

If you are near an animal hospital when the dog has experienced heat stroke, go there immediately.  They can provide proper cooling measures, monitor the dog’s temperature, heart rate and provide oxygen if needed.  They can also perform any other procedures that may be needed to help the dog in question. is raising awareness about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars.  They have flyers that can be left on cars when a dog is left unattended in a hot car…but the risk of overheating isn’t great.  On days where there is a risk of overheating, skip the flyers and call the non-emergency police number.  Please…if you see a dog at risk, say something or do something.  You may be the only one speaking out for that dog and you might save a life!




Filed under: Dog Care

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