Dogs in Hot Cars

A Deadly Combination

When the temperature climbs, so does the number of calls the Alberta SPCA receives about dogs being left in dangerously hot cars.

On a hot day, the inside of a car can reach 51º C in as little as 10 minutes. In this time a dog can suffer irreparable cerebral damage or possibly death. Opening the windows, parking in the shade or providing water does not help alleviate the extreme temperatures that your dog will experience if left in your car. These measures are not enough to prevent heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke in dogs after a very short period of time.

Two past cases in Alberta show that this type of offense is being treated seriously.

A 2006 conviction in Calgary resulted from a couple leaving their family dog in a car while they went shopping.  Despite leaving the windows unrolled an inch and providing the dog with water, the interior temperature of the car climbed to a dangerous 51ºC, rendering the dog in distress. The remorseful couple pleaded guilty to charges under the Animal Protection Act and were fined $400.

A conviction in March 2009 resulted from a dog being left in a car for more than two and a half hours in June 2006; the outdoor temperature was 21 ºC.  Police officers were notified and the dog was released from the sweltering car parked on a busy Edmonton street. The dog was taken to the humane society and treated for heat exhaustion. Subsequently, the dog’s owner was charged under the Animal Protection Act for causing an animal to be in distress and was ordered by the provincial court to pay a fine of $1,500.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

Possible symptoms of heat stroke include heavy panting, glazed eyes, dizziness, rapid pulse, excessive thirst, salivation, lack of appetite, weakness, muscle tremors, a deep red or purple tongue, and vomiting.

What can you do if your dog exhibits symptoms of heat stroke?

If your dog becomes overheated move him to the shade and apply cool (not cold) water all over his body to reduce body temperature. Apply ice packs or cold towels to his head, neck and chest.  Ensure he drinks small amounts of cool water or licks ice cubes. Take your dog to a veterinary clinic right away.

What should you do with your dog on a hot day?

The best place for your dog on a hot day is at home, either inside where it is cool (such as the basement) or in a yard with access to shade and water. However, if you must take your dog with you, never leave it alone in the car. If you have to leave your dog in the vehicle, make sure someone stays with the animals and the air conditioner is turned on.

What can you do if you see a distressed dog in a car?

If the car is located in a mall parking lot contact mall security and they can page the owner of the vehicle. If the car is not in a parking lot your best bet is to contact the local RCMP or local SPCA or humane society so that they can promptly respond to the situation.

What else can you do?

Spread the word! Sometimes people don’t realize that something as seemingly harmless as leaving their pet in their car for “a few minutes” in the summer can be so dangerous. Tell as many people as you can about the dangers of this action. You could help to save the lives of many animals!