What You Should Know About Leaving Your Dog In The Car

What You Should Know About Leaving Your Dog In The Car

These days it's probably safe to say that most dog owners know not to leave their dogs in a locked car, but with summer almost here, it can’t hurt to reiterate this point. It is never a good idea to leave your dog unattended inside of a locked vehicle. Even though you might think you’re only going to be gone for a short while, it can be a lifetime for a dog. On a bright, sizzling summer day the temperature inside your car can go soaring up to temperatures that are harmful for your dog in less than an hour. Many people think their dogs will be okay if they crack the windows, but this is not an effective method for cooling the interior of the vehicle and will not stop temperatures from continuing to rise.

Panting is one process that dogs use to regulate their body temperature; replacing hot air from their lungs with cool external air. If your dog is trapped in your vehicle with only hot air to breathe they will be unable to regulate their body temperature. Constant panting in an effort to cool down will also cause excessive salivation. This can lead to dehydration. In these overheated circumstances you are putting your dog at risk for heat stroke which can be fatal. Heat stroke occurs when your dog’s body temperature rises to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. This is extremely dangerous for your dog, because organ failure and the potential for death occurs at 107 degrees.

Heat stroke can be easily recognizable if you know how to spot the signs. Restlessness is often a warning sign. If your dog is panting, and drooling a lot, and seems to be struggling to breathe with an elevated heart rate, the animal could be overheating. If you see vomiting or diarrhea you need to get your dog somewhere to cool down immediately.

In fact, heat stroke fatality in dogs is such a big deal, that 31 states currently have so called “hot car” laws on the books. These laws dictate that it is unlawful to leave an animal in a locked vehicle in conditions that would endanger the animal’s life. In most cases the car has to be parked, and unattended. 15 states even allow civilians to break your car windows to rescue trapped animals, while the rest of the states with hot car laws do require the rescue to be performed by a law enforcement officer, however in all of these cases the rescuing party is protected from incurring civil liability related to the damage caused in the act of freeing the animal from the locked vehicle, but do usually require the person to notify the authorities before doing anything.

Think about why you’re getting into the car in the first place. If you take the dog with you will you be able to bring them with you inside, or will they have to wait for you in the car? If you aren’t able to take the dog with you, it’s probably better for both of you to leave the dog home this time. Of course there may be extenuating circumstances that require you to leave your beloved pooch in the car for a short time, so if you must make sure to park the car in a well shaded area. Remember that cracking your windows doesn’t do anything to make the car cooler, the same can really be said for parking in the shade as well, but doing this is better than parking somewhere in direct sunlight as the car will get hot even faster that way.

If you’re going to leave the dog in the car, you’re going to need to be aware of the outside temperature at all times. If the day is going to be especially hot and humid, leave the dog at home and save the car trip for another time.

As mentioned above, dogs do a lot of panting to cool down, and this can lead to them losing a lot of water in the process. You have to make sure to provide adequate water for the dog if you are going to leave then unattended in the car for any amount of time.

Simply cracking your windows won’t do much to cool down the car, and leaving them open can be unsafe for both you and the dog. Your dog could also escape out an open window or door which causes a different kind of problem. In order to make sure that you can safely leave the door or window open for your dog, there are all kinds of tailgate locks that allow you to keep your tailgate cracked a little bit without allowing access to the car or allowing your dog to escape. There are also window vents that can be inserted into the space where the window would be, and allow free flow of air into and out of the car.

Let’s review the information we’ve discussed. Firstly, if you can’t take the dog inside with you, you are better off leaving them at home. Trapping your dog in the car is potentially deadly to your dog, not to mention illegal in most states. Your dog can become trapped in a life threatening situation in a matter of minutes when stuck inside of a hot car. If a dog’s body temperature rises too high, they could suffer from organ failure and potentially death. This is such a problem that many states allow bystanders to smash out your windows if they believe that your dog is in imminent danger.

We here at Keep Doggie Safe believe there’s really never a good time to leave the dog in the car, but if you must,you should invest in some items to make your dog’s time alone in the car as comfortable as possible, and make sure to return as quickly as possible so nothing bad happens.


  • Nora O'Sullivan

    Thank you for these articles.

  • Jonnie

    I have auto start and air in my truck and car. They stay cool while I am doing short errands. Thoughts.

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