Written by: Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Every year there are reports of dogs literally being "cooked" alive after being left in vehicles in hot weather. This dreadful and sad situation can be avoided.
Even on a mildly warm day dogs can overheat. In a closed vehicle temperatures can quickly rise to around 50 degrees Celsius. It is a terrible thought, but meat can be cooked in ovens a little over this temperature as the meat proteins start to break down.
Dogs can die when left unattended in a vehicle on a hot day, even when in the shade. The weather can suddenly switch, so even on cloudy days leaving a dog in a car can sadly prove fatal.
For those travelling with their dogs during the summer months, here is some advice.
- Consider the weather, especially if you don't have air conditioning in your vehicle. Think about whether taking your dog on a journey is absolutely necessary.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of space and isn't sitting in direct sunlight directly behind a car window.
- Always make sure there is ample shade provided as even in an air conditioned vehicle a dog can become too hot if sat in full sun.
- Make sure plenty of stops are taken with lots of fresh water available.
- Take water in a cooled thermos rather than in a plastic bottle, so that it stays cool. Ice cubes added to the water before the journey is helpful.
- Be aware of the signs of overheating in dogs: panting, disorientation, dark red gums, vomiting, and losing consciousness.
- If you are at all concerned contact a Vet.
- Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle, even with the window open and water available. If you are travelling with a dog and you stop for a break then do take them with you. Give them a rest in a cool place with access to shade and water. Or, take them into a cafe /hotel with you. Search Kennel Club’s “Be Dog Friendly “Campaign: www.dogfriendly.co.uk.
- Never let your dog take part in any exertion in hot weather, or stand in exposed sunlight.
- Never pass-by if you see a dog overheating in a vehicle. Make sure you let someone in authority know. If in doubt then call the police on the emergency number 999, or the S.S.P.C.A Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999. It is an animal cruelty offence to have a dog overheated and suffering in a locked vehicle.
If you think that your dog has overheated then:
- Move the dog out of the heat
- Contact the nearest Veterinary surgery immediately
- Offer cooled water for small drinks if the dog is still conscious
- If possible, fan the dog with cool air
- Wrap in cool, damp towels or spray with cool, not cold, water particularly over the head and neck
- Cool the dog's tongue by dabbing with a cold, damp cloth
- Transport to the nearest Vets surgery as quickly as possible. This is an emergency situation and the dog will need urgent attention
Remember that any vehicle, caravan or conservatory can also dangerously overheat. If you have any questions regarding avoiding heat stroke in dogs, please contact us for good professional advice.