Cars and Heatstroke

posted: by: RAH Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Leaving pets unattended in cars is never safe, no matter how short the time you'll be gone. 

Even if it doesn't seem that warm outside, inside of a car can become dangerously hot. For example, when the temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the inside of a car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour. 80 degrees outside becomes 99 degrees within 10 minutes. Pet owners may try to alleviate the heat by rolling down the windows, but studies have shown that this has little effect on temperatures inside a car.

Animals are not able to sweat like humans do. For example, dogs cool themselves by panting and sweating through their paws. If given only overheated air to breathe, animals can collapse, suffer brain damage, and possibly die of heatstroke.

What are the signs of heatstroke?

Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of animal--like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles--have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

Some signs of heatstroke include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Profuse salivation (drooling or slobbering)
  • Vomiting
  • Deep red or purple tongue
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness

What should I do if I see an animal in a car on a warm day?

Call the Police at 999. If the Police are unable to help, please call the 24-hour cruelty line at 0300 1234 999.

First Aid for Heat Stroke

Act quickly, heatstroke can be fatal! If dogs show any signs of heatstroke, move them to a shaded, cool area. Call your vet immediately.

To urgently, gradually lower their body temperature:

  • Immediately douse them with cool (not cold) water, to avoid shock – you could use a shower, or spray with a water bottle and place them in the breeze of a fan. 
  • Let them drink small amounts of cool water.
  • Continue dousing until their breathing settles. Never cool dogs so much that they begin to shiver.

Once your dog is cool, immediately go to the vet.

Further reading and resources:

Links for more information:


The Humane Society: