Hot Spot! With summer just around the corner, Dr. Caroline Patten, of Liberty Vet Clinic, provides some guidance about leaving your dog in the car in this month’s “Everything Pets” column.
Dear Dr. Patten,
I love my dog! I have owned dogs all my life, and have always thought of myself as a great dog owner, frankly, but now a recent encounter with a total stranger has me wondering.
My dog loves the car, and it was a beautiful day so I took her with me on some errands, leaving her in the car with the doors locked & the windows cracked while I picked up dry cleaning and dropped off packages at the mailbox, etc.
I was a little longer in the supermarket than I’d intended, but certainly hadn’t left my dog more than 30 minutes, but when I returned to my car a woman was waiting for me to tell me what an irresponsible dog owner I was. In fact, she wasn’t waiting for me at all but had called the police to report animal abuse!
It certainly wasn’t a hot day (in the 60s) Obviously, I didn’t stick around for the cops but now I am wondering what would’ve happened if I had.
Is it ever OK to leave your dog alone in a car?
– Mary R.
If it is warm or hot out the answer is NO! Even in 70 degree weather your car can heat up to dangerous levels. After 20 minutes a car in 70 degree weather can reach an internal temperature of 99 degrees! That is too hot for any dog.
Studies have also shown that leaving the windows cracked open does not help. Your car will still heat up to a dangerously high temperature. Dogs that become overheated are at risk for dying or becoming severely ill from heat stroke.
I have treated many dogs for heat stroke on days when the owner said it did not feel hot outside. It is better just to leave your dog at home.
If the weather is cold outside it may be ok to leave your dog alone in the car for a short period of time. But this depends on how cold it is outside, and what kind of dog you have.
Small breed dogs do not tolerate the cold well and their body temperature will decrease much more quickly as compared to a large breed dog.
Some dogs are also very anxious when they are left alone in the car. These dogs may become destructive inside the car and should probably be left at home.
A couple of years ago a woman left her dog alone in her car in a Home Depot parking lot in south Philadelphia and her car was stolen with her dog inside. The dog was missing for 6 weeks before being found by the owner.
So please remember there are always risks when leaving your dog unattended in the car.
Dr. Caroline Patten
Liberty Vet Clinic
8919 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia