We all know the slogan about what happens to dogs in hot cars. Ultimately; it doesn’t end well. But even when you’re driving with your windows down, and making sure you never leave Fido in the car while you shop, hot weather can be tough for dogs in cars.
From dehydration to heatstroke, spending time in a hot car can spell trouble for our four-legged friends. A combination of thick fur and physiology mean that our pets are much more susceptible to illness and health problems if they overheat than us humans. So how can you make sure your dog stays safe and comfortable on the road this summer? Here are some helpful ways to keep them cool.
Never, ever leave a dog in a hot car
No matter how many times it’s said, this fact bears repeating. That’s because even the most devoted dog owner can sometimes have a lapse in concentration. While our pups will likely be perfectly happy in the car for 15 minutes in cooler months, once a heatwave hits, dogs can develop heatstroke in just a quarter of an hour.
Although leaving dogs in hot cars isn’t in itself illegal, if something happens to an animal while it is trapped in a hot car, owners can face prosecution for animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This crime carries potential jail time of up to six months and an unlimited fine.
It can be difficult for owners to judge “how hot is too hot”, when it comes to leaving animals in the car - especially given the unpredictable British weather. When heatwaves strike, we’re often underprepared to look after ourselves - let alone our pets. To help you decide on acceptable temperatures, consider these facts…
When it is 21℃ outside, unventilated cars can reach 32℃ inside within 10 minutes.
When it is 23℃ outside, unventilated cars can reach 36℃ inside within 10 minutes.
When it is 26℃ outside, unventilated cars can reach 37℃ inside within 10 minutes.
When it is 29℃ outside, unventilated cars can reach 40℃ inside within 10 minutes.
Temperatures in cars can soar even when you’re parked in the shade with your windows left ajar. There is no safe way to leave a dog in a hot car - simply do not do it.
Dogs can develop heatstroke in cars even when you’re on the move with the air conditioning on or windows open. That’s why it’s very useful to know the signs of heatstroke in dogs to ensure your animal is healthy while travelling. Signs of heatstroke in dogs include:
Excessive panting and/or thirst
Lethargy, anxiety and/or unresponsiveness
Lying on their side
If your animal is exhibiting these symptoms, allow them to leave the vehicle, rest in a shady spot and drink plenty of water - ideally in a cool or air conditioned space.
Certain breeds of dog are more prone to heatstroke. That’s because panting is the main mechanism dogs use to cool down. Breeds of dog which have shorter airways (such as pugs and bulldogs) are less able to reduce heat through panting, which can make them overheat more rapidly.
Don’t travel during the hottest part of the day
If you need to travel with your dog in the car during hot spells, try to arrange your journeys so that you’re travelling during cooler times of day. Travelling between 11am-3pm can be an incredible sticky business for humans, let alone fur-covered pets, so bear this in mind when planning trips.
Plan doggy breaks
If you’re planning a longer journey during a hot spell, make sure you factor in frequent rest stops for your four legged friend. Allow your pet to rest in a cool space and drink water regularly to ensure they’re in good condition during your journey.
Cool the car down first
We all know how blazingly hot cars can get when you first hop in on a sweltering day. This initial hotness can be a recipe for disaster for pooches. Before you put your dog in the car, give the vehicle time to cool down by running the air conditioning. Bad for your battery, but much safer for your dog.
Take plenty of water
Just as humans need to hydrate more efficiently in hot weather, so too do dogs. Water bowls can be somewhat problematic in moving vehicles, to keeping a large bottle of chilled water handy is a very good idea. You can use this to top up their bowl when you make rest stops. Alternatively, there are now a number of products available which make keeping pets hydrated on the go more convenient (and less splashy!). Options like the Auto Dog Mug will keep your pet refreshed. If your dog is happy with an occasional spritzing, carrying a spray bottle full of cool water can also help them keep cooler on the go.
Direct sunlight through car windows can send the temperature inside your vehicle skyrocketing. Installing shades or blinds will help reduce how much and how rapidly your car heats up, keeping your pet cooler for longer when you travel.
Consider cooling accessories
There are some potentially helpful accessories now on the market which could help keep your dog cool when you’re on the move in hot weather. Cooling collars (and even cooling bandanas) can be purchased to help your pet “chill out” during a heatwave. Other options include cool pads and larger cooling mats for your pet to rest on while you travel. These products are reusable and simply need to be popped into the freezer to refreeze before you use them again.
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