With spring in full bloom and summer approaching, 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 – those who sadly suffer from heat exhaustion after being trapped in hot cars.
Leaving a dog in a car on a warm day, even with the windows open and the car parked in the shade, creates a potentially fatal situation. Cars warm up rapidly; on a 22°C day, within an hour the temperature inside a car can reach around 47°C, or even higher in direct sunlight.
No matter what season it is, if you see a dog in distress left unattended in a car you should always act.
If the dog is not displaying signs of heatstroke
- If the dog is not yet displaying signs of heatstroke, try to establish how long they may have been in the car.
- There may be a ‘pay and display’ ticket with a start or expiry time, for example. Note the car’s registration, and if you’re at a supermarket or venue, ask the staff to make an announcement to alert the owner to the situation.
If the dog is in distress
- If you see a dog in a hot car, quickly assess the situation.
- If the dog is panting heavily, appears lethargic or drowsy, is drooling excessively or is vomiting or unresponsive, they may be showing signs of heatstroke and you should dial 999 immediately.
Many people’s first response in this situation is to contact the RSPCA, or other welfare organisations. RSPCA inspectors do not have powers of entry and therefore still require police assistance. Do call 999 – this is a life-threatening situation and the police sadly deal with these incidents every year.
If possible, someone should stay with the dog so their situation can continue to be monitored.
Emergency first aid
- If the situation becomes critical, you may choose to break into the car and perform emergency first aid.
- If you do this, 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 as you may need to defend your actions in court.
- Ask someone to contact a local vet for advice; they may advise taking the dog straight to them for emergency care.
- Until you can get to the vet, move the dog to a shaded, cool area and immediately pour small amounts of room temperature water onto the dog’s body.
- Avoid ice-cold water as this may cause the dog to go into shock. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of lukewarm water and continue to pour small amounts onto their body, until their breathing settles. Then take them to the vet.
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