How Hot is Too Hot for a Dog in a Car

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By connorshehan October 13th, 2019

As a member of your family, it seems natural for a dog to come along for the ride – to jump into the back of the car when you run errands or head out for an excursion. Say the words, “Wanna go for a ride?” and you will likely get an exuberant response to further justify your decision. Car rides are fine for dogs, as long as you don’t plan to make any stops where your dog has to remain inside the vehicle, even for 10 minutes. So, exactly, how hot is too hot for a dog in a car or vehicle? Mixables is answering this question below.

leaving a dog in a car on a hot day

Can I leave my dog in the car?

Generally speaking, it’s unsafe to leave your dog inside of a car. While we all lead busy lives and we hate to leave our loved ones at home (dogs most especially), we should consider some factors that would ultimately put your dog in harm’s way. As a rule of thumb, if you decide to take your dog out, ensure that he or she can join in on the activity or fun rather than sitting inside of a vehicle. Your house is probably much more comfortable than the backseat of a car.

How dangerous is the heat for your dog?

While heat and humidity are certainly unpleasant, maybe even unbearable, for humans, it still doesn’t compare to the fate that may befall our furry friends. 

It takes a very short time for a car to heat up, even with cracked windows on a warm or mild day. On a 70-degree day, the temperature inside a car can hit 89 degrees in just 10 minutes, and 104 in a half-hour. If the outside temperate is 80 degrees, a car can get up to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 114 in 30 minutes.

dogs do not sweat like humans

Additionally, dogs do not sweat as humans do; they cool themselves primarily through panting.  And when your dog is only breathing hot air, they cannot cool down, putting them at the risk of heatstroke. Further, the ability to self-cool varies among breeds. Short-snouted breeds like bulldogs or pugs cannot cool themselves as easily through panting. And dogs with cold climate origins, such as huskies and malamutes have a more difficult time adapting to the heat.

Are there safe alternatives to leaving your dog unattended?

Running the engine isn’t a good idea either, as your dog may inadvertently put the car in gear, or if the engine dies, the cold air is zapped. You also run the well-known risk of having some steal your vehicle while you’re running errands. Overall, it’s an unnecessary risk that you shouldn’t consider. 

dog heat stroke

Really, the one alternative is to ensure the safety of your pet first and foremost, which would mean keeping them at home where they can stretch and rest without discomfort.

Are there penalties for leaving a dog in a vehicle?

Currently, in 22 states, it is illegal to leave a dog unattended in a parked vehicle, and/or citizens are empowered to free a dog without penalty if there’s an overt risk of injury or death to the animal. Some laws spell out that it’s unlawful to leave a pet in the car in extreme hot or cold temperatures, and some are vaguer in their language in what conditions are considered unsafe. 

In most states without laws about pets left in cars, there are city ordinances that address the issue. Penalties range from fines and/or jail time to having your pet taken away.

Laws notwithstanding, it is cruel to leave your pet in hot and cold temperatures, even for a short time.

What to do if you see a pet locked in a car on a hot day

If you see someone else’s dog in a car and you perceive them to be in danger, use these tips to approach the situation calmly:

what to do if you see a pet locked in a car on a hot day
  • Take down the vehicle’s model, make, color, and license plate number.
  • Try to have the owner paged, by going into the closest building or office, and asking a manager to make an announcement.  
  • If you can’t find the owner, call the police’s non-emergency line or the animal control department. 
  • Do not leave the scene. 
  • Try to find someone to watch the animal while you try to locate the owner, and be aware of signs of heatstroke, which include restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting and lack of coordination. 
  • If you truly believe the dog is at risk and/or showing these signs, and the owner or the authorities haven’t arrived, find a witness to back you up, and remove the dog from the heat immediately. 
  • Get them to air conditioning as soon as possible to start the cooling process and give them lots of cool water to drink. 
healthy dog food

Mixables supports dogs health at every stage of life and chooses to promote conscious pet care through everyday activity and wholesome dog food. For more information on caring for your beloved fur baby, check out our other articles.

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