We understand you mean to be kind in taking your dog with you when you go out in your car, but you could be risking your dog’s life if you leave her or him in a parked car.
On a hot summer day, the inside of a car heats very quickly. For example, on an 85°F day, the temperature inside your car—with the windows slightly open—can reach 102°F in 10 minutes. In 30 minutes, it can reach 120°F, and on warmer days, even higher.
A dog’s normal body temperature is 100.2-103.8°F.1 A dog can withstand a body temperature of 107-108°F for only a short time before suffering irreparable brain damage—or even death. The closed car interferes with the dog’s normal cooling process, that is, evaporation through panting.
If your dog is overcome by heat exhaustion, you can give immediate first aid by immersing her or him in cool water until body temperature is lowered. Only take this course of action if it will not delay arrival at a veterinary hospital.
Recommendations from the Animal Medical Center2
- If your dog collapses, take it to a veterinary hospital immediately.
- Take extra precautions with overweight dogs on hot, humid days. Additionally, you should develop a weight loss plan with your veterinarian to benefit your dog’s health long term.
- If you have a Bulldog, Pug, Shar-Pei, Pekingese, or other brachycephalic breed, limit their outdoor access on hot, humid days, as the short noses of these dogs may not allow adequate cooling on the hottest summer days. In a Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine study, these breeds were twice as likely to develop heat stroke compared to other dog s seen at the same hospital.
- Although large breed dogs, such as Golden or Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, and English Bulldogs need a lot of exercise, choose exercise times when the heat and humidity are low. In the same study, these breeds were also twice as likely to develop heat stroke compared to other dogs.
- Morgan RV. Small Animal Practice 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Co; 1997: 5t.
- VetFocus Update. New York, NY: Animal Medical Center; 2006. http://amcny.org/sites/default/files/docs/CanineHeatStroke.pdf.