It can take just seconds for a dog to get heatstroke in a hot vehicle and, while almost all pet owners know you shouldn’t leave your pup in a car unattended.
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and online car buying experts CarStore are urging dog owners to be aware of the dangers of driving with pets - especially ones with thick coats and underlying health conditions – during the warmer seasons.
A spokesperson explained: “It’s all about planning ahead and being prepared. The aim is to keep them healthy, happy, and hydrated, to reduce the risk of the dog suffering from heatstroke – a genuine threat on a hot summer’s day”
Here’s how to keep your dog safe this summer.
Make the most of your car’s air conditioning system
Turn off recirculation mode. This often-misunderstood button near your car’s A/C temperature controls, which depicts a car with a circular arrow, stops the car from pulling in fresh (chilled) air from outside, and instead recycles the air within the car. This moves the hot air around, which could make the car clammy. Turning it off introduces cold air – but hay fever sufferers beware, as it can pull in pollen (so check your pollen filter at your next MOT). Close the windows. Not only are you creating a wind-tunnel affect with the windows open, but you’re also inviting hot air into the car and tempting an adventurous dog to stick their head out, which can be very dangerous. Check the temperature. There's a list of reasons your car's air-con may not be working, but the most likely cause is that there is no gas in the system. Alternatively, there may be a leak somewhere and the system needs checking over by a trained technician. If you’re concerned about the air con working properly in your car, contact your nearest CarStore to book an appointment to have it checked while you wait.
Keep the car cool
If possible, put the air conditioning on for a few minutes before you set off on your travels, to allow the car to cool down before your dog gets in. Once on the move, make sure you have the windows open for ventilation and use sunshades on the windows, so your dog isn’t in direct sunlight.
You should also make sure your dog has access to water during the journey. The amount of time it takes for a dog to overheat in a car is much shorter than many people think, especially if your dog is long-haired or has a short snout - in some cases, it could be minutes or less. Many of these dogs have difficulty breathing and these problems are exacerbated in hot weather, even from 20°C.
Take care on hot surfaces
Take care on hot surfaces
Lots of surfaces heat up in the sun, such as leather car seats or the tarmac in a car park, and this can be painful for your dog’s paws, causing injuries such as blisters. If in doubt, check for yourself using the palm of your hand. If it feels too hot for you, the chances are your dog will feel the same. Use a towel or dog bed in your car to ensure your dog is not sat directly on a hot seat whilst on the move.
Plan stops on your journey
If you’re travelling for any kind of significant distance, make sure you take a route that has enough places to stop, so not only can the human passengers take a break, but your dog/s can stretch their legs, go to the toilet, rehydrate, and have a cooling treat too. We would recommend setting off earlier in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler and there is less traffic, if possible.
Never leave your dog alone in the car
Cars can get very warm, very quickly, and this can be deadly for your dog. Even if your car is parked in the shade with the windows open, dogs can become distressed and uncomfortable, and develop heatstroke very quickly. Make sure you always have a plan so your dog isn't left alone in the car or any other enclosed spaces. If you see a dog in a hot car, dial 999.
Look out for heatstroke
When your dog gets too hot and can’t reduce their body temperature they are at risk of developing heatstroke, which can be fatal. The signs to look out for include: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, xcessive drooling, lack of coordination or confusion, vomiting or diarrhoea, and loss of consciousness.
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, you need to act fast. Immediately take them to a cool, shaded area and ring your nearest vet clinic. Once in the shade, lay them down on a towel soaked in cold water and let them drink small amounts of cool water. Never place them directly into ice cold water or give them too much to drink as they may go into shock. Try to keep cooling them down while you take them to the vets.