How Hot is Too Hot for Your Canine Companion in a Car?

How Hot is Too Hot for Your Canine Companion in a Car?

Despite being a nation that adores dogs, we inadvertently endanger our furry companions.

Within minutes, temperatures in a parked car can soar above 40°C, a fatal environment for dogs. Research from the Dogs Trust reveals that 2 out of every 3 people have witnessed a dog confined in a car during a sunlit day.

Of those witnesses:

  • Over a third chose not to act.
  • 15% reported the situation to the police.
  • 4% took the bold step of breaking into the vehicle.

For those travelling with dogs, here are guidelines to ensure your canine's safety:

The Reality of Leaving Dogs in Cars

The Dogs Trust, the leading dog welfare organization in the UK, disclosed that more than 25% of UK dog owners have left their dogs alone in vehicles.

Contrary to popular belief, 48% think it's safe to leave a dog in a car under shaded areas or with a slightly open window. However, these precautions barely affect the car's internal temperature.


  • 1 in 10 individuals are aware of a dog harmed due to being left in a car during a hot day.
  • Brits are almost three times more likely to leave their dog in a car compared to their mobile phone.
  • To understand how scalding a car can become, one simply needs to touch the dashboard or seats.

Notably, it's not exclusively hot days that pose threats. Even on seemingly cool days, cars can transform into lethal traps, meaning it's never advisable to leave a dog unattended in a vehicle.

What is a safe temperature to leave a dog in the car?

A safe outside temperature to leave a dog in the car is between 0-21°C. However, it is best to avoid leaving your dog unattended in the car, regardless of the temperature, to prevent distress and potential health risks.

Understanding the Grave Consequences

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, remarked, "While we profess our love for dogs, it's alarming how many of us jeopardize our furry friends. Many of these at-risk dogs are cherished family members, yet owners underestimate the speed at which a dog can succumb in a heated car, which can become as hot as an oven."

From the moment car doors close, a fatal timer begins for the dog. The bottom line is clear: avoid leaving your dog in a parked vehicle.

In less than 20 minutes, if a dog's body temperature surpasses 41°C, it can be deadly. During an experiment on an overcast day in July, the internal temperature of a car reached a staggering 42.8°C, enough to melt a chocolate dog replica.

On a day with an ambient temperature of 27°C, a car's interior can dangerously heat up to 60°C. Dogs left in these conditions may rapidly show distress signs, including excessive panting and barking. Prolonged exposure can lead to muscle loss, kidney failure, brain damage, and ultimately, cardiac arrest, a tragic end we wouldn’t want for our pets.

Recommendations for Safe Travel with Dogs

Dogs lack the same efficient cooling mechanism as humans, making them vulnerable to heatstroke and dehydration. When travelling with your dog:

  1. Never leave them unattended: Avoid parking and leaving your dog, even briefly. External cool temperatures can deceive you, as cars heat up swiftly. Neither parking in the shade nor opening windows guarantee safety.
  2. Maintain a cool environment: Travel when it's cooler, use sun blinds, and allow a slight breeze inside. Wet towels can also help in cooling your dog.
  3. Stay hydrated: Always carry water and make frequent stops for hydration breaks.
  4. Stay updated with traffic: Check for live traffic updates. You wouldn't want to be stuck in traffic under the blazing sun.
  5. Plan journeys meticulously: If embarking on long trips, ensure your dog won't be left alone in the car.

Assisting Overheated Dogs

If you spot a distressed dog in a car, it's imperative to act:

  • Dial 999 immediately, or
  • Reach out to the RSPCA at 0300 1234 999, or
  • Contact the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.

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