The Facts About Dogs and Hot Cars

News anchor Kyle Clark of NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, CO made news himself in 2016 when he spoke up on air about witnessing a dog locked inside a car on a 90°F day. “So there’s an apology in order,” Clark said. “Not for you, no. For your dog. I’m sorry that your dog does not have better humans.” His powerful statement (see video below) has resonated with pet lovers everywhere, and has attracted over 1.5 million views on Facebook.

“Never leave your dog alone in the car” is a frequent refrain of veterinarians and other dog health experts, with good reason. Even during the cooler days of summer and even with windows open and even in the shade, a car’s temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels in a very short amount of time. We’ve compiled some facts from these experts to help you keep your dog (and the dogs in your community) safe this summer.

What You Need to Know

Dogs left alone in cars in even mild heat are at risk for heatstroke, a serious condition that can result in organ damage and even death. Many pet owners are shocked to find out just how fast the temperature can rise in your car. This chart shows the dramatic difference that even 10 minutes alone on a hot day can make. According to PetMD.com, dog body temperatures above 103° F (39° C) are abnormal, while 106° F (41° C) or higher is typically associated with heatstroke.

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time
Elapsed time Outside Air Temperature (F)
70 75 80 85 90 95
0 minutes 70 75 80 85 90 95
10 minutes 89 94 99 104 109 114
20 minutes 99 104 109 114 119 124
30 minutes 104 109 114 119 124 129
40 minutes 108 113 118 123 128 133
50 minutes 111 116 121 126 131 136
60 minutes 113 118 123 128 133 138
> 1 hour 115 120 125 130 135 140
Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University via AVMA.org

Even leaving the windows open does little to affect these high temperatures, according to a study by the Louisiana Office of Public Health.

The best way to keep your pet safe in this situation? Leave them at home, where air conditioning, fans and shade can offer them a retreat from the heat.

How You Can Help

In addition to avoiding this situation with your own pets, there are also things you can do to protect pets in your community. Share this information with your fellow dog owners, and encourage your veterinarians and local pet stores to post information about this issue. It is also important to recognize the signs of heatstroke in dogs, which include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.

If you see a dog inside a car that is at risk, there are things you can do to help.

  • Ask nearby businesses to make an announcement to alert the dog’s owner.
  • If the owner cannot be located, call your local police’s non-emergency number, or your local animal control or rescue league.
  • Many states are passing “hot car” laws to protect pets and penalize pet owners. Some even have laws protecting good samaritans who rescue pets in distress. Know the rules, and if your state or community doesn’t have any laws on the books, talk to your local representatives.

Keeping pets safe is important to us at DogWatch. We hope this information helps keep many pets safe this summer and for many summers to come.

3 Comments on “The Facts About Dogs and Hot Cars

  1. I had no idea that dogs lefts out in a car even during mild heat could get heatstroke. I will usually leave my dog in the car for about 20-30 minutes when I go grocery shopping, but I never realized that the body temperature could reach so high so quick. I mean, the chart says that being in the car for 30 minutes in 70 degree whether ends up being just a couple degrees away from getting heatstroke. Thank you so much for putting this information out here as it has helped make me more aware.

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