Do not leave your dog in the car

Do not leave your dog in the car

Even on moderate days, leaving animals in a car is hazardous. Most people recognise that leaving dogs in cars during hot weather exposes them to harmful situations, but there is NO safe setting in which to leave your dog unattended in a vehicle.

While it may not feel hot to you, weather conditions and, with them, your dog's chances of survival may change suddenly. Even if the weather remains moderate, automobiles are built of metal and glass, both of which absorb heat, and may heat up fast at any time of year. Temperatures inside a car can quickly rise to more than twice the outside temperature.

Dogs primarily regulate their body temperature by panting. When a dog is extremely hot, panting alone will not keep them from overheating. In hot weather, the temperature inside a parked car can quickly rise and be much higher than the temperature outside. On a hot day, dogs left alone in a car can quickly become dehydrated, develop heatstroke, or even die.

How long can I safely leave my dog in a car on a warm day?

We would not recommend leaving your dog unattended in your car on a hot day, even for a few minutes. Heatstroke can occur quickly and be fatal.

If I leave a window open, or park in the shade can I leave my dog in a car on a warm day?

No it's just a bad idea. Even if you leave the window open, park in the shade, or use a sunshade, the temperature in your car can still rise to dangerous levels and lead to heatstroke in your dog.

Is it safe to leave a dog in a car on a hot day if I leave a bowl of water for him?

No, it really is a bad idea to leave your dog in the car. Even if your dog has access to water, heatstroke can occur, while stuck in your car. 

What are the symptoms of heatstroke or distress in a dog?

Heatstroke symptoms can appear quickly and include:

Heatstroke risk in dogs
  • Heavy panting, even when not exercising
  • Breathing issues, especially in flat-faced dogs
  • Tiredness
  • Unwillingness to move or stiffness
  • Dribbling
  • Confusion
  • Being sick, which can be a bloody
  • Stomach upset, which can be bloody
  • "Drunk" walking in a zigzag or wobbly pattern
  • Collapse
  • Fitting

If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, contact your vet immediately while cooling them down. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for saving a dog's life. According to research, while one in every seven dogs brought to a vet with heatstroke dies, 98 percent of those seen early with mild symptoms are likely to survive.

Here are some tips for looking after your dog in the hot weather.

What should I do if I come across a dog trapped inside a hot car?

Even if the dog appears to be in good health, they can quickly deteriorate, so act quickly. Make an assessment of the situation's urgency.

If the car is parked at a supermarket, shopping centre, or event, see if you can find someone to look after the dog while you search for someone to make an announcement over the tannoy. Remember to bring the following items:

  • Location of car
  • Registration number
  • Car make, model and colour

For more information, call the RSPCA's 24-hour cruelty hotline at 0300 123 4999. If you are unable to contact the owner or are concerned about the dog at any time, call 999.

Can I legally break a car window in order to save the dog?

If the police are unable to arrive and the dog is in distress, some people may consider breaking a window in order to save the dog. Keep in mind that this could be considered criminal damage, and you may have to defend your actions in court.

The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).

Unfortunately, as the owner has left the dog in the car in the first place they are unlikely to agree with your assessment and will not consent to the damage you caused. 

Helping a dog who has been in a hot car

Any dog suffering from heatstroke should be seen by a veterinarian, especially if they are extremely ill or unconscious. If you don't know where your nearest vet is, you can find one here. It is critical that you begin cooling your dog as soon as possible; this can make a significant difference in whether or not they survive.

Tips for assisting a dog suffering from heatstroke:


  • Consult a veterinarian.
  • Stop exercising and move them out of the sun and into the shade.
  • Place them on a cool floor.
  • Provide them with small amounts of water to drink.
  • Pour water over the dog's body carefully, or sponge them if water is limited. Pay special attention to their neck, tummy, and inner thighs. Continue doing this ideally until their breathing returns to normal. Make certain that the dog does not inhale any water while you are attempting to cool them down.
  • If possible, fan them with cool air or place them in an air-conditioned room or car. If they're already wet, fanning them or putting them somewhere air-conditioned will have the greatest impact.

Tips for driving with a dog in the car on a hot day

  • Consider the weather and your route ahead of time, especially if your vehicle lacks air conditioning. Consider whether the trip is absolutely necessary for your dog.
  • Turn on the air conditioning or drive with the windows down.
  • Ensure that your dog has enough space and is not squashed or forced to sit in direct sunlight.
  • Install window sun shades: Even in an air-conditioned vehicle, a dog can become overheated if exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Make frequent stops with plenty of water available to drink.
  • Take cool water in a Thermos rather than a plastic bottle to ensure that it remains cold rather than lukewarm. Ice cubes are also useful for cooling in a thermos.
  • Take some frozen treats in a small cool box or a temperature-resistant container to give them when you stop driving.
  • Be aware of the above-mentioned signs of overheating in dogs.

Tips for taking public transport with your dog on a hot day

  • Avoid travelling on hot days if at all possible. If necessary, travel during cooler times of the day. Always bring fresh water and a bowl. A cooling drink for your dog will be essential if there are any delays or malfunctions with the air conditioning.
  • Carry a small battery-powered fan with you to keep your dog cool.
  • If at all possible, ensure that the public transportation you intend to use is air-conditioned.

Remember if you need to find a vet, you can search here:


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