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Nobody ever says leaving dogs in cars, especially during summer, is a good idea.

It's hot, it's uncomfortable, and we know how dangerous it can get for our furry friends.

But what if you just crack a window open? Is there a safe temperature to leave dogs in the car? How long can dogs survive in a hot car?

Below, let's discuss what happens to dogs in hot cars, fast facts, and safety tips to keep our dogs cool and safe during the hot weather.

Border-Collie-left-alone-in-a-car-in-summer

Dogs in Cars: Why Is It Not a Good Idea Especially in Summer?

Summertime can get pretty toasty, especially in some parts of the country. Sure, I love me some time under the sun to get all tanned but not when it's 106 degrees Fahrenheit outside!

Now, imagine being trapped inside a metal contraption with no way out and with the heat going up by the minute. How would you feel like being cooked in the oven like a Thanksgiving turkey?

This is probably what our dogs feel when being left inside an unattended car.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Geosciences of the San Francisco State University, a car's temperature can rise up to almost 45 degrees Fahrenheit in just an hour!

For reference, take a look at the heat chart below that illustrates just how hot it can get inside a vehicle.

Car Temperature Heat Chart

Elapsed 

Time

(Minutes)

Outside Air Temperature

70°F/

21°C

75°F/

24°C

80°F/

26°C

85°F/

29°C

90°F/

32°C

95°F/

35°C

0 70°F/

21°C

75°F/

24°C

80°F/

26°C

85°F/

29°C

90°F/

32°C

95°F/

35°C

10 89°F/

31°C

94°F/

34°C

99°F/

37°C

104°F/

40°C

109°F/

42°C

114°F/

45°C

20 99°F/

37°C

104°F/

40°C

109°F/

42°C

114°F/

45°C

119°F/

48°C

124°F/

51°C

30 104°F/

40°C

109°F/

43°C

114°F/

45°C

119°F/

48°C

124°F/

51°C

129°F/

54°C

40 108°F/

42°C

113°F/

45°C

118°F/

47°C

123°F/

50°C

128°F/

53°C

133°F/

56°C

50 111°F/

44°C

116°F/

46°C

121°F/

49°C

126°F/

52°C

131°F/

55°C

136°F/

57°C

60 113°F/

45°C

118°F/

47°C

123°F/

50°C

128°F/

53°C

133°F/

56°C

138°F/

59°C

>60 115°F/

46°C

120°F/

49°C

125°F/

51°C

130°F/

54°C

135°F/

57°C

140°F/

60°C

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature vs. Elapsed time

Source: Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University

If it can get hot enough to actually fry an egg inside a parked vehicle, how can we even think our dogs can survive this much heat?

No wonder the reported deaths of dogs and infants go up to hundreds in a year just because of being left inside the car for far too long.

As a matter of fact, as of August 31, 2022, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reported that there have already been 46 heat-related deaths in dogs and other animal companions.

Could that be any more worrying?

Laws Against Leaving Dogs in Cars

There are about 31 states in the country (plus the District of Columbia) that have varying degrees of laws related to leaving animals in the car.

Some states only specify banning dogs and cats from being left in the car; not necessarily covering other animal companions.

Other states, on the other hand, have laws that protect officers or public officials from breaking and entering a car to rescue a trapped animal.

There is, however, a law called the “Good Samaritan Law” that allows even private citizens to rescue an animal from a vehicle, but only if they follow the proper protocol.

You can check the existing laws and regulations in your location against leaving animals in parked vehicles in this link.

Effects of Leaving Dogs in Cars During Summer

There is no doubt that too much heat can have a negative effect not just on our health but especially on our dogs, too.

Canine Hyperthermia or Heatstroke could be the number one effect of leaving a dog inside a car, especially during summer.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition for our pets that should be avoided at all costs!

Keep a lookout, especially for brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs. They are usually more heat intolerant and therefore, suffer negative effects sooner than other breeds.

You should also be cautious of your dogs that are too young, old in age, overweight, or with a history of any sickness. They should be kept in a comfortable environment as often as possible.

French-Bulldog-has-heatstroke

Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs

Here's how to spot heatstroke in dogs when you see one:

  • Extreme panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate
  • Drooling/ Thick Saliva
  • Dry nose
  • Bright pink/red gum or tongue
  • Mild weakness/ Stumbling around
  • Sunken dry eyes
  • Loss of Skin Elasticity
  • Stupor
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • High body temperature (over 104°F)

Noticing one or two of these signs should be enough to alert you and to apply immediate first aid to your pet to prevent any serious consequences from happening.

First-Aid for Heatstroke

There are steps you can do to immediately cool down your overheated dog.

Note that when your dog collapses, seizures, or vomits, don't waste any time! Go to the nearest vet hospital at once.

But for other symptoms, the following steps might be enough to let them somehow recover.

  1. Lay the dog down in a cool or shaded spot
  2. Pour cool water (cool, not ice cold!) onto the dog to lower the temperature
  3. Pay extra attention to wetting their ears and paws
  4. If available, allow them to dry off in front of a fan
  5. Continuously monitor their temperature until it lowers down to a normal 101°F to 102.5°F (38°C to 39°C)
  6. Let them sip cool water as soon as they can

Once they look like they got back some of their energy, it's still best to go to the vet for further evaluation.

You would want to make sure that there are no complications that happened during their overheating episode.

Other Risks for Dogs in Cars

Now, let's say you aren't leaving your pet inside the car unattended. Maybe you and your furry best friend are going on a summer trip—sounds exciting, right?

But don't think that the only danger they can get from a car is if they are left in it alone. There are other risks that you'd also want to avoid at all costs.

  1. Always put a restraint or harness on your dogs inside a moving vehicle. You need your seatbelt securely fastened. They also need something to keep them secured in case something unthinkable happens!
  2. Don't allow your pets (small or large) to be leaning on your lap while you drive. They can hamper your view and cause distraction.
  3. I know it's cute seeing dogs hanging out a car window but don't let them get used to it especially if there's no other person holding them securely. Not only because they might jump, but they can also get injured by another motorist or any airborne object–you'll never know!
  4.  Also, don't let them ride on the bed of a pickup truck while you're driving as they can get thrown out from a sudden turn or maneuver.

You may think, “Oh, my dog is trained. He already knows how to behave inside the car!”

Well, you'll never know what could happen. It's always better to err on the safe side!

Dogs in Cars During Summer Safety Tips

Here are some safety tips you'd always want to remember about having dogs in the car during summer.

1. Don't leave your dog in the car

This is a no-brainer but something that should still be spelled out. Don't leave them unattended in a parked car!

Even cracking the windows a couple of inches to “let the air in” still won't make a difference.

In fact, the vehicle interior still heats up just as much as a car with all windows closed! Take the American Veterinary Medical Association's words for that.

2. Bring a companion to watch over the dog

If you really have to bring your dog with you, try to bring another person to watch over it. Leave them in the car with the engine and AC running to make them comfortable.

3. Go to pet-friendly stores

There are many pet-friendly stores now across the country that won't mind accommodating your furry friends as long as they're properly leashed.

Ask the store you're going to and maybe they'd happily welcome your dog, too!

4. Teach your dog how to exit properly

Sometimes, our dogs can get too excited that they'd just zoom out of the car and run around. Teach them the ‘wait' command.

This way, you'll have enough time to make sure that the surrounding is safe from any possible hazards (like a fast-approaching vehicle) before letting them out.

5. Use a certified and crash-tested leash, crate, or carrier

You also got to make sure that your dog is secured and properly harnessed in a moving car at all times.

This will prevent them from getting too naughty inside (a.k.a. exploring too much and causing distraction) or accidentally getting thrown out of a car.

6. Leave your dog at home

If it can be helped, just leave your pet where it will be the safest–at home!

These are only some of the tips you can follow to help your dogs keep safe in the car in the summer. For more tips and tricks, listen to our podcast here.

Dogs in Cars During Summer: Fast Facts!

Did you know…?

  • Regardless of the temperature outside, a car's internal temperature can rise up to 20° to 30° in minutes
  • Just an additional 2° in a dog's body temperature can already cause heatstroke
  • 15 minutes is all it takes for a dog to die of heatstroke
  • Cars, even parked in a shaded spot, can still heat up to dangerous levels
  • Opening windows don't have much cooling effect inside a parked vehicle
  • Short-muzzled dogs and those with dark-colored coats are more prone to overheating
  • Leaving a pet inside a parked car is a crime in some states

Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs in Cars

What car temperature is too hot for dogs?

Because it only takes for a vehicle interior to heat up to 20° to 30° in minutes, even 60°F can already be quite hot and dangerous for dogs to be left alone inside a car, according to AccuWeather.

Even cracking a window open doesn't make a difference with how high the temperature of a vehicle's interior could get, regardless if it's parked in a shaded place.

The safest thing to do is to just not leave your dog unattended in a parked car.

Why should you never leave your dog in a car in the summer?

Leaving dogs in a car, especially during summer can be quite fatal for them. They will be at risk of heatstroke because of how hot it can get inside.

In fact, as of August 2022, there have already been 46 heat-related deaths among dogs and other companion animals according to PETA.

I'm sure you wouldn't want to get your dog to add up to that number, would you?

How long will a dog last in a hot car?

Dogs only need an additional 2° in their body temperature to get overheated, and a total of 15 minutes to sustain a brain injury and eventually die because of heatstroke.

But that doesn't mean you can go for a 5-minute run inside the convenience store because your dog can survive in the hot car for 15 minutes anyway. No! Just don't risk it.

Also, remember that leaving dogs in a car means jail time in some states!

Dogs in Cars During Summer – Summary

Sure, road trips are fun, especially if we bring along our dogs in the car during summer. But remember that a lot of things can go wrong even when you least expect it.

There is no safe temperature for dogs to be left alone in a car, especially a parked one. That is a fact.

Regardless if it's summer or winter, leaving a dog unattended is most definitely not a good idea. It can cost you your safety, your car's safety, and most importantly, your dog's safety.

So remember to be cautious all the time, take necessary precautions, and safely enjoy the rest of the summer with your dog.

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