Dog Days: Dangers of Leaving Dogs in Parked Cars

December 1986 Miami, Florida, USA

In this edition of Dog Days, we seek the answer to the common question, ‘Is it safe to leave your dog in a parked car in the summer?’ I know my dog would much rather sit in the car than at home by herself, but this option can be deadly! Even though this summer has been relatively mild, especially compared to last summer, even a temperature as low as 72 degrees can be dangerous! The forecast for the rest of the week predicts high 70’s. High temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage and even death. This is a problem we should all agree to help prevent and become more knowledgeable about.

December 1986 Miami, Florida, USA

Cool temperature outside doesn’t mean cool inside:

It doesn’t have to be that warm outside for a car to become hot inside. Here are some facts about car temperatures:

  • When it’s 72° F outside, the temperature inside a car can heat up to 116° F in an hour.
  • At 80°F outside, the temperature inside the car can heat up to 99° in 10 minutes.
  • On an even warmer day, the temperature inside a car can exceed 120°in minutes!
  • Rolling down the windows has been shown to have little effect on the temperature inside the car.

What to do when you see a pet left in a hot car:

  • Take down the car’s make, model and license-plate number.
  • If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.
  • If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.


Signs to look for if your dog is exposed to heat:

The first thing all dog owners should look for is heat stress if your dog is exposed to high temperatures. This can include a rapid pulse, vomiting, heavy panting, glazed eyes, a deep red or purple tongue, or a staggering gait. If you find that your dog is displaying any of these, move him/her to a cooler area and do the following:

  1. Gradually lower body temperature by applying cool water all over the body or soaking in a cool bath.
  2. Place cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits and in the groin area. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Direct a fan on the wet areas to speed evaporative cooling.
  3. You may offer fresh, cool water if your dog is alert and wants to drink. Do not force your pet to drink.

After following these steps, take your pet immediately to a veterinarian as it could save your dog’s life. Call ahead to be sure someone is available for an urgent situation.

Heat stress is not the only danger:

Many pets each year are stolen from unattended cars. Many pets do enjoy riding with you in the car, but if they are they should do so safely. Dogs that ride in a car should be in a travel crate or wear a safety harness. When a pet travels longer distances, there should be two ID tags, one with a home address and one with a destination address.

For more information about pet care contact HSUS at 202-452-1100 or check out their website:

*Information provided by The Humane Society of the United States,