How many times have you got back into your car on a hot, sunny day and instantly been overwhelmed by the heat that has built up while you were out? Or been shocked at how hot the steering wheel or gear stick is? Cars heat up incredibly quickly in hot weather, and that’s why it’s so dangerous to leave dogs in the car, even just for a few minutes.
The key issue is that dogs are not able to sweat like humans can – they are only able to sweat through their paws, while we can use almost the entire surface area of our skin. Dogs generally regulate their body temperature by panting, but that doesn’t do a particularly good job. This makes hot temperatures far more dangerous for dogs than for humans, so you can’t assume that the dog will be fine being left in the car because you’re not that hot.
Too hot for dogs is not as hot as you might think
The average temperature in the UK during the summer months is around 19° Celsius, which doesn’t seem like a lot. However, inside an average car, the temperature would rise to 29° within ten minutes, and then within only half an hour it can reach a sweltering 38°. That’s not far off the average temperature of the Sahara Desert. Would you want to be stuck in a car in that heat?
During a lovely hot spell like the one we had last week, the effect is even more noticeable. If it’s 29° Celsius outside, then a parked car will reach interior temperatures of 43° with ten minutes and 51° within half an hour.
In less than 15 minutes on a mild summer day (19°), this can cause a dog to develop heatstroke, which can lead to seizures, coma, organ failure and death. And don’t think that parking in the shade or cracking open a window will help – in reality, these make relatively little difference on the temperature of the dog inside the car.
What action should I take to rescue a dog?
So what should you do if you see a dog suffering in a hot car? Your immediate response should be to try and alert the owner, and hopefully they’ll be nearby to quickly resolve the situation. However, things become a little trickier if you can’t track them down. Many people will suggest breaking into the car to free the dog, and that seems a perfectly reasonable thing to think. However, this could be classed as criminal damage unless the owner deems it necessary under the circumstances.
Although many people would probably rather face the consequences than see a dog die, that’s a decision you’d have to make at the time and be aware of the potential repurcussions. A far better option is to call the police.
The infographic below from Ignitionline highlights why it’s absolutely vital not to put your dog at risk during the summer, as well as providing some useful first-aid information on how to treat a dog suffering from heatstroke.