You Only Have Minutes to Save a Dog's Life

“In just 20 minutes a Dog could die in a hot car” say the Dogs Trust.

And it doesn’t have to be as hot as many people think.

A customer of ours told us how she became upset after seeing a dog suffering trapped in a hot car.

The incident occurred outside a supermarket when the lady and other concerned onlookers, tried to agree what to do.

Some suggested breaking the windows to free the dog from its torment, while others contemplated phoning the police or RSPCA.

Fortunately, on this occasion, the dog owner was found in the store. Not that he was pleased, and on his return he showed his appreciation by treating the bystanders to a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse.

According to the RSPCA this isn’t an isolated incident and the problem seems to be getting worse.

In 2018 The RSPCA say they took 8,290 calls, relating to heat exhaustion in animals. 90% of these calls related to dogs in hot cars.

This was a 15% increase on incidents since 2016 and these are only the incidents that'd been reported.

So, How hot is too hot? Can you legally break the windows to rescue a distressed animal? And what can you do to help a dog in a similar situation?

How Hot is Too Hot?

One thing to remember is, if it’s warm for us it’s even hotter with a fur coat on.

The Dogs Trust tell us - If a dog’s internal temperature exceeds 41°C – even by just 1°C - it can prove fatal.

Even a warm car can be uncomfortable for a dog, but once temperatures outside reach 22°C - the temperatures inside a car can rise to 47°C in just 10 minutes - Well above the danger point for dogs and putting them on a rapid countdown to heatstroke.

And you can’t get away with simply winding down the cars windows either, as The Dogs Trust explain, winding down the windows won’t help lower the in-car temperature by that much.


As a Dog can’t cool itself down by sweating, like we do, the only way they can lower their body temperature is by panting.

The problem is, trapped in a hot car, the only air available to breathe is of a high temperature, further restricting their ability to cool themselves down.

Not only are these conditions stifling and uncomfortable, but If a dog can’t reduce its body temperature by panting, it rapidly leads to heatstroke – which can kill.

Signs of Heatstroke

A dog suffering from heatstroke will show one or more of the following signs:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy or drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Collapsed
  • Vomiting

Emergency First Aid for Dogs

For the best chance of survival any dog suffering from heatstroke will urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually.

The RSPCA advises the following course of action:

  • Move him/her to a shaded/cool area.  
  • Immediately douse the dog with cool (not cold) water, to avoid shock. If possible, you can also use wet towels or place him/her in the breeze of a fan.  
  • Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool (not very cold) water.  
  • Continue to douse the dog with cool water until his/her breathing starts to settle but never so much that he/she begins to shiver.

Once the dog is cool, take him/her to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency.  

How you Can Help – and The Law

Of course, the above is only any good if you’ve got the dog with you – so what should you do if you come across a dog in a hot car?

The first thing to do is make a judgement call on the dog’s health and then consider where the vehicle’s located.

For example, if the vehicle is located outside a shop, or on a retail park, you can copy the vehicle’s details and ask the store to put a call out for the owner.

You’re then free to go back and monitor the dog, while you wait for the owner to appear.

Once the dog owner has appeared and the dog’s been relieved of its discomfort you can then carry on your way.

You may still feel that the situation was dangerous for the dog, in which case you can still report the matter to the local police on 101.

The law and An Emergency

But what do you do if the owner can’t be located and the poor animal is in obvious distress?

Well in this situation you have an emergency and we advise the following.

You can call the RSPCA for advice on their dedicated 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. However, if the dog is showing signs of heatstroke, then this is an emergency and we would advise calling the police on 999 without delay.

Now this is where it can become a little tricky.

If it’s apparent that the Police are too far away - or unable to attend – then to free the animal from it’s torment, you may instinctively want to break into the vehicle.

If you feel strongly that this is the best thing to do, just remember, you may need to account for your actions in Court. In these circumstances it may help if you:

  • Can photograph or film the trapped dog
  • Take names and numbers from any witnesses
  • Inform the Police of what you are about to do and why

When it comes to damaging property in circumstances such as these, the law states that at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence you believed that the person or persons whom you believe to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question would so consent to it if s/he had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances' (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).

In plain English, if you believe the owner would want you to save their dog, knowing it was in danger, then they’d have give you permission to break into the car.

Now it’s difficult to know how the owner would react after returning to their car and finding the window smashed, but in your defence, you may claim you was doing them a favour.

After all, you not only saved the life of their dog, but you also saved the owner from committing a criminal offence under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which is allowing a dog to suffer unnecessarily and could have landed them in prison for six months, a £20,000 fine, and a ban on keeping animals. 

So How Long Is Safe?

The short answer to, how long can you keep a dog in a hot car is - never. There is no excuse to ever leave a dog in a hot car.

Just 20 minutes can be fatal, in 10 minutes the heat is already at dangerous levels and 5 minutes will be highly uncomfortable and distressing for your dog – potentially leading you open to prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act.

Hot Weather Care

We stock a range of products that help alleviate a dog’s discomfort in warm weather, from fold-able bowls and special water bottles for drinks on the go, through to Cooling Coats designed to keep your dog cool either at home or when out and about.

Please feel free to comment if you wish and remember – the only hot dog you really want comes with onions and ketchup.

In the Meantime - check out our Summer Essentials

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