Dogs in a Hot Car – Be Careful!

By: Tracie Hotchner


If you can’t leave the windows down, don’t leave your dog in the car.

It should be common knowledge by now that you should never leave your dog in the car on a hot day, especially given all the widespread publicity about the tragic consequences that occur when people have made this mistake. Don’t even leave your dog in the car on a warm day. Heat can build up very quickly in the enclosed space of a car, rising 20 degrees in 10 minutes according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA). So, for example, even on a day when the temperature is a moderate 68 degrees, the internal temperature can climb to 88 degrees within 10 minutes!

What you may not know is that it is against the law to leave your dog in the car under certain conditions – mostly involving extreme heat or cold – in almost two dozen states. Moreover, regardless of specific state laws, ubiquitous municipal and animal cruelty laws prohibit the practice as well. In fact, if your dog is perceived to be in distress, for whatever reason, left unattended in the car, you can be charged with animal cruelty in most places in the U.S.

If you happen to run across a dog in this situation, you should try to find the owner and warn him, if possible. Otherwise, leave a note on the windshield – or better yet – have a ready supply of flyers on hand from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for this purpose (please see page 972 of The Dog Bible for details).

Dogs can succumb to heatstroke within 15 minutes. Signs of dangerous heat stress in dogs include the following:

  • Heavy panting
  • Deep red or purple tongue
  • Glazed eyes
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion (which could signify brain damage)
  • Unconsciousness (leading, of course, to death)

What if you have no choice – you have to travel alone with your dog and are forced to leave him in the car periodically? If your travels are in a climate where temperatures are moderately cool, you might be able to leave him for short stretches of time with water and a window cracked for fresh air. But, be sure to park out of the sun, lock the doors and check on him frequently.

Now that dogs are being welcomed in an increasing number of retail establishments and restaurants, hopefully, there will be little reason to leave them behind in the car. It is dangerous, bad practice and, in many cases, illegal. Please don’t do it.

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