We have been waiting for months for the sun to finally arrive in the UK and at last it has made an appearance. With temperatures peaking at around 30 degrees, it’s actually hotter here than it is in plenty of popular holiday destinations around Europe! However, every single summer, despite the years of campaigning by animal welfare groups, people still fail to understand the danger of leaving their dog locked in a car in such temperatures.
If you wouldn’t put your dog in the oven, DO NOT leave him in a hot car. It might sound like an extreme comparison but the reality is that on a hot day the temperature in a car can become unbearable in just minutes. Dogs can’t cool themselves down in the same way that we can. They can’t sweat, open a window or fan themselves and they’re wearing a fur coat. While not every dog left in this situation will die, at the very least they will experience distress, discomfort and anxiety. Nobody expects it will happen to them, so the way to ensure it definitely doesn’t is by not taking the risk. ‘Not long’ is too long, and 10 minutes spent nipping into the Co-op for you is 10 minutes your dog spends panicking in an enclosed space with a rapidly increasing temperature which may result in heatstroke.
Heatstroke occurs when a dog is unable to regulate their body temperature, and to do this they pant. High temperatures reduce the effectiveness of panting and with no escape in a stationary vehicle it quickly becomes a death trap. Heatstroke can cause permanent brain damage, organ failure or even death in as little as 15 minutes in a hot car.
Heatstroke symptoms include:
- Excessive thirst
- Thick saliva
- Heavy panting
- Dark tongue colour
- Lack of coordination
Prompt identification and treatment are crucial in saving the life of an affected dog. If the dog in question is showing any signs of heatstroke be sure to have water at the ready to cool it down as soon as it is out of the car. Immediately visit a vet and explain it is an emergency.
Your dog is more at risk of over-heating if they are brachycephalic (flat faced) such as pugs, French bulldogs, boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels and shih tzus. Elderly dogs, thick coated breeds, puppies and obese dogs are also more susceptible to heatstroke.
Believe it or not these are some genuine excuses people thought were reasonable grounds for leaving their dogs in the car on a hot day [RSPCA]
- “They’re fine, they’re smiling?” (The dogs weren’t smiling, they were panting excessively.)
- “We only went to buy a new kitchen.”
- “It’s OK, I’m a vet.”
- “It’s not like my dog’s on its own in the car, my kid is with it.” (On this occasion ‘the kid’ was a five-month-old baby strapped into a car seat.)
- “I left the window open.”
- “I’ve only been in the pub for half an hour, anyway it’s OK, I run a dog rescue centre.”
- “My dog is white, he’ll be fine.”
If you have concerns about a dog in a hot car don’t hesitate to call 999. Although it might seem logical to call the RSPCA they have no powers of entry and therefore require police assistance. If you decide to break a window to free a dog in distress, please be aware that it could be classed as 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 vehicle would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (Criminal Damage Act 1971). If you wait for the police to arrive make sure you take photos of the dog and the car, and take the names of any witnesses. Do not leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
If you love your dog and value his life, do not leave him in the car during warm weather for any length of time. Leave him at home or run your errands later in the day. Don’t gamble with the life of a loyal companion that would do anything to protect yours.