Leaving dogs in cars

You may as well leave your dog in an oven

21% of dog owners have left a dog unattended in a vehicle for more than 20 minutes

21% of dog owners have left a dog unattended in a vehicle for more than 20 minutes

As the UK sets to bask in 30 degree heat this week, Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, warns dog owners of the dangers of leaving their pets in parked cars, even for a few minutes. 

Research undertaken by the charity shows that despite being a nation of dog lovers, more than one in four UK dog owners admitted to leaving their dogs unattended in cars.

Almost half of us (48%) believe it is ok to leave a dog in a car if counter-measures are taken, such as parking under a tree or leaving a window open. Unfortunately, this is a myth - in reality partially lowering the window has no significant effect on the temperature inside a parked car.

  • More than one in 10 people know of a dog that has come to harm left in a parked car in hot weather
  • Last year AA patrols attended more than 1,000 pets locked in cars
  • Recent AA-Populus survey* revealed that 21% of dog owners have left a dog unattended in a vehicle for more than 20 minutes
  • Almost half of us (48%) mistakenly believe it is ok to leave a dog in a car if counter-measures are taken (window open or parked in shade)
  • Brits are far more likely to leave their dog in a car alone for a few minutes (28%) than their phone (10%)
  • Over a quarter of UK dog owners admit to leaving their dog alone in parked cars

20 minutes can be fatal

Less than 20 minutes in a hot car can prove fatal to a dog should its body temperature exceed 41°C. As the temperature inside the car rises, in just a matter of minutes, the dog’s suffering will become evident through excessive panting, whimpering or barking.

This will develop into a loss of muscle control and ultimately the kidneys will cease to function, the brain will become irreversibly damaged and the heart will stop.

20 minutes can be fatal

Less than 20 minutes in a hot car can prove fatal to a dog should its body temperature exceed 41°C. As the temperature inside the car rises, in just a matter of minutes, the dog’s suffering will become evident through excessive panting, whimpering or barking. This will develop into a loss of muscle control and ultimately the kidneys will cease to function, the brain will become irreversibly damaged and the heart will stop.

AA research

In addition to Dogs Trust’s research, a recent AA-Populus survey of 28,265* adults has revealed that more than 1 in 5 (21%) dog owners have left a dog unattended in a car for longer than 20 minutes; and last year, the motoring organisation attended more than 1,000 incidents of dogs locked in cars.

you just have to touch the dashboard or seats to know how hot the inside of a car can get. But it's not just on warm days when dogs are at risk

Mark Spowage, AA patrol of the year

Obvious danger

AA patrol of the year Mark Spowage comments: “The dangers are obvious, you just have to touch the dashboard or seats to know how hot the inside of a car can get. But it's not just on warm days when dogs are at risk – vehicles can be death-traps even in cooler temperatures.

“So, if you are carrying a dog in the car, plan in some stops, take plenty of drinking water for it and check traffic reports – you want to minimise the time sitting in traffic.”

it’s shocking how many people are willing to put man’s best friend in serious danger

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust

Shocking

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, comments: “We claim to be a nation of dog lovers, but it’s shocking how many people are willing to put man’s best friend in serious danger. The saddest thing is that these dogs are often much loved family pets but the owners simply do not appreciate how quickly a dog can die in a hot car where temperatures can reach the same as an oven. As soon as the car doors are shut the countdown begins - which could potentially end in an agonising death for the dog. Our message is simple: don’t leave your dog in a parked car”

Advice to pet owners

Dogs Trust vets have issued the following advice to pet owners and concerned animal lovers:

  • Don’t leave your dog in a parked car, even for a few minutes - even if it seems cool outside it can become very hot very quickly. Parking in the shade and/or keeping the windows down does not make it safe! 
  • If you see a dog in distress in a parked car call the Police Service (101) or the RSPCA (SSPCA in Scotland) 
  • Keep your dog as cool as possible when driving - avoid travelling during the heat of the day, use sun blinds on the windows and consider opening a window a little to allow a cooling breeze to circulate in the vehicle 
  • Make sure you have a supply of water - and plan stop-offs on route for water breaks. Dogs are not able to cool down as effectively as humans so could suffer from heat stroke and dehydration very quickly 
  • If you are present at the rescue of a dog from a hot car that is clearly in distress, seek immediate veterinary advice. The very first priority is to prevent the dog from getting any hotter, attempt to provide shade from the sun and move to a cooler area. Dampening the dog down with cool (but not freezing) water will help start to bring the body temperature down. 
     
  • Wet towels can be used to cool a dog but these must be regularly changed or spraying them down with water and placing them in front of the air conditioning vent to enhance evaporation on the way to the emergency appointment.

Melting ice

A melting ice sculpture of a dog locked in a car highlights the danger


(1 July 2015)

Vision Critical surveyed 2000 adults across the UK in April 2014 on behalf of the Dogs Trust.

* 28,265 adults, aged 18+, responded to the AA-Populus online panel between 18-28 May 2015. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.