With summer now in full swing, warmer weather and longer days offer the perfect opportunity to pack up the car and hit the road. But what can start out as a fun, relaxing day in the sunshine can have tragic consequences for dogs.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Leaving a dog in a car on a warm day, even in a shaded location with the windows open, can create a potentially fatal situation. Parked cars can reach incredibly high temperatures within minutes which inevitably will cause a dog’s body temperature to rise very quickly, leading to heatstroke.
“Heatstroke can cause seizures, organ failure, and even death. If you see a dog in distress left unattended in a car, you should act quickly.”
What to do if you see a dog in a hot car
If the dog is panting heavily, appears lethargic or drowsy, is drooling excessively or is vomiting or unresponsive, they could be showing signs of heatstroke – in which case, you should seek help immediately.
Many people’s first response in this situation may be to contact an animal welfare organisation, but these inspectors do not have powers of entry and require police assistance.
Because of this, it’s best to call 999 – heatstroke is a life-threatening situation, and sadly, police regularly deal with these incidents.
If the dog is not displaying signs of heatstroke
If the dog isn’t displaying any obvious signs of heatstroke, try to establish how long they may have been in the car.
For example, there may be a pay and display ticket with a start or expiry time that could give you a clue, though a dog should never be left in a car unsupervised.
If you’re concerned, note the car’s registration, and if you’re at a supermarket or public venue, ask the staff to make an announcement to alert the owner to the situation. If possible, stay with the car to monitor the dog.
What to do in an emergency
If the situation becomes critical, you may feel you need to break into the car and perform emergency first aid.
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.
Always inform the police first of what you intend to do and why, take images and footage of the dog and record the numbers of any witnesses to the incident.
Start to cool the dog down while someone contacts a vet for advice.
They may advise taking the dog straight to them for emergency care, but make sure they are being cooled on the way.
Move the dog to a shaded, cool area and pour small amounts of room temperature water onto their body.
Offer the dog small amounts of cool water, but do not force them to drink.
Continue to pour small amounts of water onto their body, until their breathing begins to settle or you arrive at the vets.
Even if the dog appears to fully recover, take them to a vet.
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