Dogs and hot cars: What you need to know

Updated 29 May 2024
Read time: 5 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham
Lead Copywriter
article author
Reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon
Team Vet

The weather’s heating-up, there’s a big bright yellow ball in the sky and our mood is considerably elated.

While it all seems like sun and games - it’s so important to consider the impact the hot weather has on our pooches.

This blog is specifically around dogs in cars. Leaving a dog in a hot car is never okay.

Dogs die in hot cars

So, it’s a warm day, you’ve nipped out and want your fur bestie by your side. It’s 22 degrees Celsius outside - which doesn’t feel that hot.


Question: Do you think your dog would be okay if left in the car for a short while?

Answer: No. It’s as simple as that.


Even in just warm temperatures, parked in the shade, or with the windows open - a car can become as hot as an oven at a rapid rate. When it’s 22 degrees Celsius outside, the car could reach an agonising 47 degrees Celsius within just one hour.


This is an unbearable and extremely dangerous situation for your dog. It could cause a lot of harm, suffering, and even death.


And as you can imagine, if you get caught leaving your dog in a hot car, you could find yourself with an animal cruelty charge under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 - which carries a potential six-month jail sentence and unlimited fine.

What can I do instead of leaving my dog in the car?

There’s a few options when the weather’s warm that you can do:


  • Leave your dog at home or with a sitter - if your dog is happy to be left at home alone for a couple of hours, then they’d be much safer and happier there. Just make sure they have access to plenty of fresh, cold water and consider leaving a cooling mat out too. If you’re planning to be out all day, then it’s advisable to get a sitter.
  • Take turns leaving the car - if you have someone with you, and you both have errands to run, then take turns. With somebody waiting in the car, engine running, and the AC cranked high - you and your dog should keep cool. Once the first person’s done what they need, you can swap over.
  • Take your dog with you - the world is changing and there’s loads of places that now welcome pooches with open arms. Research ahead of time, and see whether your dog’s able to come inside with you.
Golden coloured show cocker dog with rubber ring round it, against pale orange background


Dog-friendly retailers

Lots of independent businesses have their own dog-friendly policies, but there’s also some bigger retail giants that allow dogs in-store. 

It’s always worth calling individual stores first to to double-check, but the following list of retailers love our four-legged friends:


  • Anthropologie (differs by store)
  • Apple
  • Barbour
  • Cath Kidston
  • Clarks
  • Dobbies Garden Centre
  • Go Outdoors
  • H&M
  • Hobbycraft
  • Homebase (differs by store)
  • John Lewis
  • Lush
  • Oliver Bonas (differs by store)
  • Pets at Home
  • Waterstone (differs by store)
  • Wilko (differs by store)

Dachshund dog in Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses on, with two blue, white and yellow beach balls, against an orange background

What to do if you see a dog in a hot car

If you see a dog left in a car on a warm or hot day, you should take the following steps:

1. Firstly, identify whether the dog looks distressed

2. If they don’t, then you should take the car’s reg, make and model and ask staff in-store to alert the owner on their loudspeaker. It’s really important that someone stays by the car at this time, to make sure the dog’s condition doesn’t deteriorate

3. If the dog is in distress from the heat, you should call 999 immediately. This could be the difference between life and death. 

4. Smashing a window to free the dog could be classed as criminal damage. Please discuss this on your 999 call, or be prepared to defend these actions in court. Take photos and videos to defend your action too. Legally, you can commit the damage if you believe the owner of the car would agree to it if they knew their dog was in danger.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

If you’re not sure what the signs of heatstroke in dogs look like, the below should help:


  • Heavy panting and trouble breathing
  • Excessively drooling
  • Lethargy, drowsiness or uncoordinated
  • Collapsed 
  • Vomiting

Emergency dog first-aid

Once the dog is free from the car, this doesn’t mean they’re out of danger! You must act quickly to help cool them back down, by performing emergency first-aid. This is really important to help their chance of survival. Here’s what to do:


  • Place the dog in a cool, shaded area
  • Pour cool (not cold) water over the dog immediately. In an emergency, any water is better than none - so do what you can do
  • Never put a wet towel over a dog as it can actually trap the heat. Instead a towel can be placed under the dog - but pouring water is better
  • Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water
  • Keep pouring cool water over the dog until you notice their breathing settling. However, don’t pour so much that they’re shivering
  • If a dog has lost consciousness, they’ll stop panting. This means they require urgent and aggressive cooling as a priority
  • Throughout the first-aid - avoid pouring water on or near your dog’s head. This could cause them to inhale the water and lead to drowning
  • Once the dog’s more settled and has cooled down, take them to the nearest vet immediately

Comments (1)

Our local Superdrug shop lets dogs in. Would be worth having a dog friendly retailers list as a main regular updates list on your website instead of squirrelled away in the body of an article. Dog owners rarely have a reference.

Luke - Aug 10 2023

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