Dogs die in hot cars

Many people believe it’ll never happen to them, yet every year people gamble with their beloved dog’s life, and every summer dogs die in hot cars.

Put yourself in their paws. Even parked in the shade with the windows open, a car can quickly become an oven – even when it doesn’t feel that warm.

When it’s 22°C outside, within an hour the temperature in a car can reach an unbearable and deadly 47°C. Should your dog’s body temperature exceed 41°C, it can prove fatal, and this can happen in as little as 20 minutes. Think how frightening that must be, with no way of escape.

What to do if you see a dog in a hot car

Dog displaying signs of heatstroke

What is the dog doing? Is it showing any of the following signs of heatstroke?

  • Is the dog panting heavily?
  • Is the dog drooling excessively?
  • Does the dog appear lethargic, drowsy, or uncoordinated?
  • Is the dog collapsed or vomiting?

If you see a dog in a hot car showing any of these signs, dial 999 immediately.

Many people’s instinct in this situation would be to call the RSPCA, or other welfare organisations. In an emergency, RSPCA inspectors may not be able to attend quickly enough and - because they have no powers of entry – they would still need police assistance. Don’t ever be afraid to dial 999 – the police deal with hundreds of such incidents each year.

If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away/unable to attend, many people’s instinct will be to break into the car to free the dog. If you decide to do this, please be aware that, without proper justification, it could be classed as criminal damage and you may need to be prepared to defend your actions in court.

Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why, and take images/footage of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident. 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).

Dog not displaying signs of heatstroke

If the dog’s not yet displaying signs of heatstroke, follow these few simple steps:

  • Establish how long the dog has been in the car – is there a ‘pay and display’ ticket showing a start/expiry time?
  • Make a note of the registration number of the car. If the owner returns but you still feel the situation was dangerous for the dog, you may wish to report the incident to the police.
  • If you’re at a superstore/venue/event ask the staff to make an announcement to alert the owner of the situation.
  • If possible, get someone to stay with the dog to monitor their condition. If they begin to show signs of heatstroke, call 999 immediately.
  • You can also call the RSPCA cruelty line for advice on what to do at any time – but please be aware that if the situation is dangerous for the dog, dialling 999 should always be the first step.

Emergency first aid

For the best chance of survival, dogs suffering from heatstroke urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually.

  • Move the dog to a shaded/cool area.
  • Immediately pour small amounts of room temperature (not cold) water onto the dog’s body to avoid shock. If possible, you can also use wet towels or place the dog in the breeze of a fan.
  • Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
  • Continue to pour small amounts of room temperature water onto the dog until their breathing starts to settle but never so much that they begin to shiver.

Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet immediately, even if they seem to have made a full recovery.

Keep your pets safe this summer

With temperatures soaring, mercury rising and the sun beating down, think about how you can help your precious pets – including how to travel safely with them in summer. We’ve compiled some top tips for keeping pets cool in hot weather, so check out our summer pet care advice and keep your pet happy and healthy in the heat.

We’re working in collaboration with many other organisations to raise awareness of this important issue and protect our nation’s dogs. Want to get involved? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, share our posts on this campaign and help us spread the word.