Is it ok to leave your dog in the car for even a few minutes when it is sunny and 75 out?

“Leaving an animal in the car for even a few minutes on warm days, can be detrimental for your pet” says Dr. Arlene McKinstry DVM.

It’s a breezy 75 degree day and you have just taken your dog to the park, and now you need to stop by the store for just a few things.  There’s no harm in leaving your pet in the car for a few minutes right?

The correct answer is NO. Even if it seems like the weather is not hot enough to harm your pet, inside your vehicle 75 degrees can turn into 100 degrees in a few short minutes.

Parked cars become ovens quickly

Cars magnify heat. When you step into your parked car on a hot day, the steering wheel and the seat feel like they’ve just emerged from an oven. This uncomfortable greenhouse effect can happen even when it’s cooler outside.

On a 75-degree day, the inside of a parked car can climb to 110 degrees in minutes. In 20 minutes on a 90-degree day, the same car can get up to 130 degrees inside.

Although we humans can sweat and regulate our body temperatures, this extreme heat can still be deadly, especially for infants and toddlers. Dogs have a harder time adjusting to heat than most humans, so being stuck in a hot car can quickly become life threatening.

When the temperature rises, dogs will try to cool off by panting, and their anxiety level will likely rise in relation to their discomfort. After all, imagine wearing a fur coat in a small, 100-degree room, not knowing where you are or where your friends are. Panic can easily set in, making matters worse.

Even if certain dogs seem to tolerate warmer temperatures, they may still suffer anxiety when left alone in a car.

Open window myth

Some people crack the car windows open, thinking this will relieve any issues their furry family member has.

However, an American Academy of Pediatrics’ study found: “In terms of heat-rise over time, it makes very little difference whether a car’s windows are closed or partially open. In both cases, a car’s interior temperature can rise approximately 40 degrees within one hour, even when the exterior temperature is only 72 degrees.”

Watching for heatstroke

  • Heatstroke can happen within 15 minutes. Canines that are either older or very young, as well as those with health problems, are more likely to succumb to heatstroke than dogs in prime health.
  • One of the first signs of heatstroke can be restlessness and discomfort.
  • Your dog may be panting or have trouble breathing, and start to cry or bark for help.
  • If confusion and disorientation set in, it is critical to get your pet to their vet right away.
  • If lethargy takes over, it may be too late for your dog to recover.

Always remember, when it’s warm outside and you need to go someplace that’s not pet-friendly, let your pal enjoy all the cooler comforts of home.

How you can save lives

If you see a dog inside a hot car, call your local police department.

There’s a California law that states if you’re concerned for a vehicle-bound animal’s safety and can’t find its owner, you’re legally allowed to break into the car to rescue the dog — but only if you call authorities first. You would be expected to wait with the dog until an authority (animal control, fire department, law enforcement or 911 emergency service) arrives at the scene, Los Angeles Times.

5 Alternatives to leaving your dog in the car

  • Use a drive-thru for errands when available
  • Bring a friend who can play with your dog outside while you run your errand
  • Shop at pet-friendly stores where your dog is welcome to browse with you
  • Eat at an outdoor café where your dog can sit with you
  • Leave your dog at home where it’s cool and safe