The Dangers of Leaving Pets in Hot Cars

| June 28, 2024

As the summer months bring soaring temperatures, it’s crucial for pet parents to be acutely aware of the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars. Even on a mild day, the interior temperature of a parked car can escalate rapidly, posing severe risks to pets left inside. Understanding these risks and taking preventive measures can save lives and prevent heartbreaking situations.

The Risks of Hot Cars

Rapid Temperature Rise: A car’s interior can become unbearably hot in a very short period. On a 25°C (78-degree Fahrenheit) day, the temperature inside a car can reach 38°C (100 degrees) in less than 15 minutes. On a hotter day, the temperature can spike to 48.8°C (120 degrees) or more within minutes. 

Heatstroke and Dehydration: Pets are more susceptible to heat than humans due to their fur and limited ability to cool themselves. Dogs, for example, primarily cool themselves through panting and have sweat glands only in their paw pads. A dog’s normal body temperature is about 39°C. A temperature of 41°C can be withstood only for a very short time before dehydration, a heatstroke, irreparable brain damage or even death can occur.  

Symptoms of Heatstroke: It’s vital to recognize the signs of heatstroke in pets. These include excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, collapse or seizures. Immediate veterinary attention is essential if any of these symptoms are observed. 

Preventive Measures

Never Leave Pets Unattended: The most effective way to prevent heat-related incidents is to never leave your pets unattended in a parked car, even for a short period. Errands can take longer than expected, and the risk is not worth the convenience. 

Plan Ahead: If you’re traveling with your pet, plan your trips to avoid situations where you might need to leave them in the car. If you need to make stops, bring a friend or family member along who can stay with the pet, or choose pet-friendly locations where they can accompany you. 

Use Drive-Thru Services: When possible, opt for drive-thru services for food or banking to avoid leaving your pet in the car. Many businesses are also offering curbside pickup, which allows you to order your items ahead of time and an employee will bring your purchase to your car.   

Stay Informed: Stay aware of the weather forecast and temperature predictions. Even a cloudy day can lead to dangerously high temperatures inside a car. Always err on the side of caution. 

What to Do If You See a Pet in a Hot Car

Assess the Situation: If you see a pet left in a car, first try to locate their guardian. Check nearby stores or businesses and ask them to make an announcement. 

Call for Help: If you cannot find the guardian quickly, call 1-833-9ANIMAL (1-833-926-4625) or 911 to call the local police.  In many areas, leaving pets in hot cars is considered an emergency, and authorities are equipped to respond. 

Provide Information: When calling for help, provide details such as the car’s make, model, colour, and license plate number, as well as the exact location of the vehicle. 

Stay With the Pet: Stay by the car until help arrives. Your presence can help monitor the pet’s condition and help if the situation worsens. Check for signs of overheating—excessive panting, glazed eyes, fatigue, a dazed look (like they appear to be “out of it”), or vomiting. If the animal is unresponsive to your approach, they could be suffering from heatstroke.    

Know the Law: Ontario has laws that allow individuals to rescue pets from hot cars. Under the Ontario Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act, police officers, First Nations constables, and authorized inspectors have the authority to enter vehicles to remove animals in distress. However, members of the public are generally advised to contact authorities rather than act themselves, to avoid legal repercussions and ensure the animal’s safety is handled appropriately. While the PAWS Act empowers specific officials to rescue animals, it’s crucial for the public to follow legal protocols and rely on trained professionals to handle these situations.   

Share information about the dangers of hot cars with friends, family, and your community. Social media can be a powerful tool to spread awareness and educate others. Remember, a few minutes in a hot car can lead to a lifetime of regret. Always prioritize your pet’s safety and comfort, no matter the circumstances.