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Six minutes or less: how long it takes for a dog to die in a hot car

Hot dogs die in cars in less than the time it takes to buy an ice-pop.
© RSPCA Australia - Twitter

Temperatures in the UK are expected to remain in the twenties for the next fortnight as the summer hots up. But how many people will still lock their dogs in a car ‘just for a minute’ without realizing how quickly a dog can expire in the heat?

By G. John Cole, 18 Jun 2019

Nearly 65,000 incidents of animal heat exposure were reported to the RSPCA between 2009 and 2018, and nine out of ten of them involved dogs locked in vehicles. In one summer week last year, the charity were fielding seven calls an hour. And as the Australian RSPCA points out, a dog in car in hot weather can be dead in six minutes or less.

What happens to an over-heating dog

Owners may think that a dog is like an adult person who can get by for a few minutes in a hot car if necessary and just deal with it, and recover later. But this is not the case. Dogs suffer heatstroke when their temperature climbs over 40.5°C.

They cannot sweat. Instead, they begin to pant, their heart rate increases and the capillaries in their skin begin to open. As the heart fails, the dog’s body fails to distribute blood and cannot dispel the heat, so they just get hotter and hotter as the organs fail and the body goes into shock.

When the dog’s temperature reaches 43.8°C, circulation fails, the kidneys fail, the brain becomes oxygen-starved, and internal bleeding may occur. After that, even a dog who is saved may be brain-damaged.

A temperature of 43 or even 40 may seem tough to reach, but cars heat up really quickly, especially when there’s a hot dog inside. When the weather shows 21.6°C on the street, the inside of a car can quickly soar to 46.6°C. Short-faced, large, long-coated, or overweight dogs don’t stand a chance, and other dogs are at high risk too, and will reach their danger points long before the car gets as hot as this.

How to keep a dog cool

Never leave your dog alone in a car. Even if the sky is overcast, or the weather seems cool, a dog can soon get too hot for his health in a car. Stay with him and keep a window open, or take him with you. A dog who is overheating may pant, breathe loudly, lick his flanks, totter or collapse; put a wet towel over his back to cool him off. A cold, but not icy, hose-down can also offer relief.

Out on the street, avoid hot pavements. If it’s too hot to touch with your hand, it’s too hot for his little dog feet.

A dog with heatstroke is an emergency case. Call an emergency vet immediately. If you see a dog overheating in a car, or alone in a car with no window open, call RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 for advice. 

Call 999 if the dog is obviously in danger or shows symptoms of heatstroke such as, extreme thirst, restlessness, heavy panting, darkened tongue, lethargy, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, or bloody diarrhoea.

Please take a look at our temperature chart to find out more:

Temperature chart for dogs in cars
©Wamiz