How Hot is Too Hot for Dogs in Cars?

Kara Bednarik

Scottie dog with tongue out in car

Imagine walking outside in a coat, pants, and covered shoes with socks on in 80-degree weather. How long do you think it would take you to start getting warm? Just sitting outside, you’d probably begin to sweat pretty quickly. Now imagine getting into your car with the doors and windows closed in all that gear. You would get uncomfortably hot much quicker than just being outside.

Your dog wears a fur coat all year. And even if you give him a summer cut, consider that a lighter jacket. Most of us don’t wear a jacket when the weather is higher than 80 degrees. It’s possible for dogs to suffer from heat stroke after only 15 minutes. Heat stroke can lead to permanent brain damage or even death if not treated quickly. Keep in mind that when it’s 70 degrees outside, your car can heat up to 89 degrees in just 10 minutes – and up to 104 degrees after 30 minutes. The warmer it is outside, the faster the inside of your car will get hot.

The safest choice is not to leave your dog unattended in the car.

Five Tips to Keeping Your Dog Safe

If you must run a quick errand (like making a bank deposit, dropping off dry cleaning, or anything less than 10 minutes), your dog will probably be fine as long as you take proper precautions. These are not hard-and-fast rules! You know your dog better than anyone. If he hates being outside when the sun is out or pants excessively when it’s above 60 degrees, it’s best not to leave him unattended. Age is also a factor in higher temperatures. Older pets can’t regulate their body temperature as well and they have a harder time catching their breath.

  1. Park in a shaded area. If a shaded area isn’t available, maybe go to a different place or run your pooch home instead of stopping while you have him with you.
  2. Put the air conditioner on high. Having the windows open is a great idea in theory, but that small space isn’t enough to properly circulate air for your dog. Having the air conditioner on a high setting will keep the air flowing evenly, and it’s much cooler than a breeze.
  3. Keep an eye on your car. When your dog is stressed, he may pace, pant, whine, or bark. All these behaviors cause him to heat up, and even if you’re parked in the shade with the AC blasting, your dog is potentially still in danger. Keeping your car in view helps you to rush back if you need to.
  4. Keep your errands short. As mentioned before, try not to leave him unattended for longer than 10 minutes. If your errand is running longer than anticipated, try to plan to do it later instead. Your dog’s safety is more important than dropping off dry cleaning.
  5. Strap your dog in. Have a seatbelt or crate for your dog in the car. This limits his movement in the car and can keep him from putting it in gear or rolling the windows down while you’re away.

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