Whatever You Do, Don’t Leave Your Dog Behind In The Car This Summer

We’ve all heard the warnings, and sometimes we don’t mean to do it intentionally, but leaving your dog in the car is more dangerous than you might think for them. Sometimes we just mean to run into the store for a few quick minutes, or we just stop at the gas station and run in for a restroom break. Whatever the reason is, your dog could be in danger in just a few short minutes, and not just for the reasons you might think.

Potential heat stroke

The potential for heatstroke might not seem high if you live in more mild climates, but even if it doesn’t feel hot to you, most dogs have an extra layer of insulating fur that makes them retain more heat, and they don’t sweat in the same way that people do to relieve a rising temperature.

In 15 minutes, your dog has the potential to fall victim to deadly heatstroke, and if medical assistance is not received can cause more complications or even death.

In turned-off car with the windows down, or even cracked, there is little to no air circulation, causing the air to become stagnant and even hotter in the enclosed space. That means even if it doesn’t feel hot to you, chances are after a few minutes it’s going to start feeling hot for your dog.

A dog looks out from a car window | ED JONES/AFP

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On the opposite side of this spectrum, in the winter months and snow climates, you might be more inclined to leave your car running to keep the heat up, but this can also put your dog at risk of heatstroke. Left unattended, you aren’t able to monitor the cabin’s ambient temperature, and having the heat cranked up too high can leave your dog in danger.

If you have to leave your dog in the car, it’s best to leave the car running with the doors locked and the climate control set to a comfortable and neutral temperature, somewhere around room temperature where it isn’t too hot or too cold.

Lost or missing…

The next reason to keep your fluffy companion with you isn’t as obvious, and most people don’t realize the danger until it happens to them or someone they know.

While you step out of the car and into the grocery store, you are leaving your dog alone in a new and unfamiliar place. Some dogs can stay happily in place, but other dogs with anxiety or even dogs that are more curious or squirrel-happy can find ways to escape their cars, and that can be disastrous.

A dog waits in a car | Stefano Guidi

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We might be inclined to leave the windows cracked or even rolled down completely, but unless our dogs are strapped into harnesses they are at risk of escape, and if you’ve ever offered your dog a delicious treat to tempt them to go someplace or get in the kennel, you might have noticed that the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and that definitely applies to dogs trying to escape a car with an open window.

Even worse, someone could also take your dog from your car, for whatever reason. Dog abductions are far less common, but it’s not a necessary risk, and as long as your dog is alone in the car, that danger is never completely gone.

If you chose to travel with your dog, think ahead about these dangers. Never leave your dog unattended in the car, and if you absolutely have to, try to mitigate these risks as much as possible, because it only takes a few seconds for disaster to strike.