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June 19, 2012 at 9:40 AMComments: 3 Faves: 0

The Dangers of Leaving Your Dog in the Car

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

Summer is officially here! The pool is ready, the grill is smoking, and the HEAT is increasing! Unfortunately, many dogs suffer heat stroke that can lead to death due to being left in a vehicle during mercilessly warm temperatures.

Think again before you decide to take your dog to run errands with you. If you think they will be just fine for 10 minutes locked in your car with the windows cracked a little and the vehicle parked in the shade, you might be shocked at what you come back to. Those 10 minutes in the store on an 85 degree day will see the inside of your vehicle reach 102 degrees even with the windows cracked open. Cracking the windows and parking in the shade does nothing to help relieve the heat inside a vehicle.

Pets are often referred to as our "fur" kids for a reason. They wear an all-year fur coat and even shedding doesn't help reduce their comfort level during extreme heat.

What you may think will only take 10 minutes always turns into a longer trip then expected. The inside of your vehicle, in 30 minutes, will reach 120 degrees on an 80 degree day and Fido just can't cope with that extreme heat! Even on a 70 degree day, your vehicle can climb to 90 degrees. It is not worth taking Fido to run errands, unless you can keep the air conditioning running for him.

Unlike humans, dogs do not have sweat glands and must pant to cool their body down, leaving them unable to do it as quickly as we can. Remember their fur coat? You may think your vehicle isn't too hot when you come back into it, but I am pretty sure you are not wearing a Parka during this extreme heat.

Many state and local governments have laws that forbid leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle during dangerous conditions. Good Samaritans might take it upon themselves if they see a distressed dog, to smash a window and rescue it. If law officials come, they will break into your car to help your furry friend and damages will not be reimbursed. Some owners can be prosecuted and fined for leaving their pets in a vehicle unattended.

I have seen many dogs left in a vehicle with windows cracked down in HOT 80 degree temperatures and people standing around not knowing what to do. I've gone as far as stepping into the store and walking around asking in a LOUD voice, whose dog is trapped in a vehicle. Yes, I try to embarrass the pet-parent into coming and retrieving their dog out of the car.... and it works.

I have even called the local law enforcement if I felt the dog was in immediate danger. Yes, I get "the look," "the gasp," and even the heads that turn away that don't want to get involved. I've read too many stories about a dog dying in a vehicle, and have witnessed many times a dog in a vehicle on a HOT day, and have even seen a puppy collapse in front of me from heat exhaustion on a beach. So, I step right up to assist and am no longer afraid to speak up for our furry friends, no matter the "look" or "gasp" I might receive.

Sadly, this irresponsible act causes death, irreversible medical problems and brain damage to many dogs during the summer months. I can't say it LOUD enough, please, please leave your dogs home on HOT days, don't take them in the car, don't walk them until it cools down, and avoid direct sun.

What Can You Do?

  • If you think the dog is in immediate danger, call your local law enforcement to assist
  • Don't be afraid to step into a store and ask a store manager or someone else to help locate the owner of the vehicle. Sometimes they will page the person over the intercom to come to the service desk and you can express your concerns
  • Be calm and polite when addressing the pet-parent, your only focus should be getting the dog out of the vehicle
  • If you can't find the owner of the vehicle, stand and wait by the car - DON'T LEAVE
  • If the pet-parent or law enforcement take too long and the dog is in immediate danger, secure witnesses to observe, take pictures and do your best to free the dog
  • Get involved when you see a dog left in a vehicle, you are their voice

Helping a Dog in Heat Distress

  • Immediately take the dog to a cool and shaded area
  • Using bottled water, pour cool water, NOT ice cold, on their body focusing on these parts: pads of their feet, ears (be careful not to get inside their ear canal), and belly
  • Other areas such as their neck, under their legs, and their groin area are important to cool down as well
  • If you have access to a pool or bath of water, gently place your dog in the cool water, immersing their entire body (making sure to keep their head above the water) to help bring their body temperature down
  • Offer water to the dog, be careful they don't drink it too fast
  • Place your dog inside an air conditioned building, home, or car
  • Transport the dog to a vet for further evaluation

I hope that this helps you to better understand the dangers of taking your "best-friend" for a few errands in the car with you on a HOT day. Leaving Fido at home is the BEST and ONLY option during summer months. He will be happy and ALIVE sitting in the A/C with a nice bowl of water, a toy, and his favorite TV show.


ASPCA - Pets in Hot Cars

Dogs and Heat Stroke

More from Health Coach Victoria Swanson Others Are Reading


  • "do your best to free the dog" might include breaking the window? I say we take a company field trip to save dogs (vigilante style) on some hot day this summer is in order! We could all get matching t-shirts, maybe capes?

  • LOVE IT SETH! I am in!

  • if you gonna take your dog with you then leave vehicle running with a/c on. do not leave any pet in any vehicle without appropriate water/ food an a/c. if you do dont be surpirsed if you see windows broken and animal possibly missing and a ticket on your windshiled.

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