Hot Cars, Hot Dogs

If your furry four legged friends are anything like mine, they enjoy a nice long car ride, whether it is to the store, to get ice cream, or out in the country. With summer weather upon us and temperatures already in the near 90s, it is getting more difficult for pet owners to take their pets for these beloved car rides without the fear of their pets becoming overheated. This is also the time of year we see and hear about many pet owners leaving their animals in locked cars on 80 and 90 degree days.

Most individuals think that if they are going to leave Fido in the car with the windows cracked and the air running, he/she will be fine. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A friend of the family once said to imagine yourself wearing an oversized fur parka and walking outside on those 90 degree days. Imagine how hot and uncomfortable you would begin to feel after a few minutes.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the temperatures inside your vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees (F) in just ten minutes, 30 degrees (F) in 20 minutes, etc. The longer your pet is in the car, the hotter it can become. The AVMA provides the following chart on their website to illustrate just how long it takes for the temperature to begin rising once you leave the car and leave Fido inside:

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time
Elapsed time Outside Air Temperature (F)
70 75 80 85 90 95
0 minutes 70 75 80 85 90 95
10 minutes 89 94 99 104 109 114
20 minutes 99 104 109 114 119 124
30 minutes 104 109 114 119 124 129
40 minutes 108 113 118 123 128 133
50 minutes 111 116 121 126 131 136
60 minutes 113 118 123 128 133 138
> 1 hour 115 120 125 130 135 140

Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University

And just like humans, animals can suffer from heatstroke as well. Have you ever wondered why dogs pant so much on hot days or during long bouts of exercise? It’s because they are trying to cool themselves and bring their body temperature down. Unlike humans, dogs do not have an abundance of sweat glands.

How Do I Know If an Animal Is Suffering From Heat Stroke?

Symptoms of heat stroke can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Dehydration
  • Changes in gum color (bright red, pale, or blue in color)
  • More severe symptoms can include: collapse and seizures

What Should I Do If I See a Pet Locked In a Hot Car?

  • First and foremost, know your state laws before breaking into the vehicle where the animal has been left! Each state law is different when it comes to pets being left unattended in a hot car. Barkpost.com offers an excellent chart outlining which states have laws in place to protect dogs left in hot cars and which states do not.
  • The Humane Society of the United States suggests taking down the vehicle’s make, model, and license plate number and if there are businesses nearby, to notify managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to
    find the owner of the vehicle. If the owner cannot be located, call local authorities or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.
  • Let people know it’s not okay to leave their animal(s) unattended in a hot car even with the windows cracked or the air running. This may not always work and you may have owners who get irritable at having someone tell them how to care for their animal. If that becomes the case, it is best just to step back and call the proper authorities.

Have you ever witnessed a pet locked in a car on a hot day? What did you do? Share your story with us in the comments!

Image Credit: John Eckman (modified)

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