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Dogs & Hot Cars

A Deadly Combination

When the temperature climbs, so do 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 windows, parking in the shade or providing water does not help alleviate the extreme temperatures 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 short period of time.

Recent Cases in Alberta

Recent cases in Alberta show that this type of offense is being taken seriously.

In 2006, a couple was convicted in Calgary after leaving their family dog in a car while they went shopping. Despite leaving the windows partially opened 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.

Temperature In Vehicle Study

The following table shows how hot it gets inside a parked vehicle in just a few minutes. The data is based on a San Francisco State University study and has been converted to Celsius from Fahrenheit. 

 Outside Air Temperature (Celsius)
Elapsed Time (minutes)Temperature Inside Vehicle
1 hr+464952545760

 Courtesy: Dept. of Geosciences, San Francisco State University 

As you can see, the most dramatic rise in temperature occurs in the first 10 to 20 minutes that the vehicle is idle.

In June 2006, a dog owner left his dog in a car for more than two and a half hours; the outdoor temperature was 21 ºC. Police officers were notified and the dog was freed 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 $1,500 fine.

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.

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

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, ensure someone stays with the animals and that the air conditioner is turned on.

If the car is located in a mall parking lot, contact mall security and have them 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. For cases outside of Edmonton and Calgary, you can call the Alberta SPCA Animal Distress Hotline at 1-800-455-9003.


Spread the word!  People don’t always 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!

Other links you may be interested in!

Importing Dogs into Canada

The procedures differ depending on whether you are bringing a dog across the border for personal reasons (to be your pet), or for commercial purposes.

Dogs & Pickup Trucks

Learn more about the requirements for transporting dogs safely in pickup trucks.

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