As the summer months continue to break temperature records across the UK, it’s essential to make sure you take your dog with you when you leave your vehicle parked up anywhere.
The penalties for leaving a dog in a hot car are severe – according to warnings from GEM Motoring Assist, motorists could face a fine of up to £20,000 and six months in prison if charged with animal cruelty.
Even if the dog survives, you could still face a cruelty charge if it becomes ill or injured due to being left in a hot car, under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.
So what can you do to make sure your dog can handle the heat when you take it anywhere with you in your car?
1. Plenty of water
Like humans, dogs can become dehydrated in hot conditions, so make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, cool water to drink.
If it’s not convenient to give your pooch refreshments while you’re driving along, make sure to pull over regularly so he or she can take a drink.
This is good practice anyway — remember if it’s a long drive and you’re starting to feel thirsty, your four-legged friend is probably feeling the heat even more.
2. Paws and panting
Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat from most of their body — in fact, their main ways to cool off are sweating through their paws, and panting.
If your pet is panting heavily, it’s a sure sign that he or she is struggling to control their body temperature.
When you notice this – and you should be sure to look out for it – then you need to take a break and get your dog rehydrated and into some cooler conditions, or outside of the vehicle for some fresh air.
3. Solar shielding
Tinted window film can help to keep the heat of bright sunlight from entering the car, and rear window tinted film can be darker than the front windscreen, which the driver needs to see out of.
Because of this, it’s possible to make the back of the car darker than the front, and give your pets who ride in the back more of a break from the sun.
Especially if your vehicle has large windows or a glass sunroof, consider getting window tinting film installed as an extra measure against hot weather.
4. Cool car colours
It’s not just window tinting film that can help – you might even want to consider getting a white or silver vehicle wrap as a way to reflect the heat away from your car.
Research published in Applied Energy in 2011 showed that lighter colours really do work to keep the car interior cooler.
That’s good news in terms of keeping yourself and your pet comfortable, but it’s also good for the environment, as you rely less on your car’s air conditioning and even get more miles to the gallon as a result.
5. Help with heatstroke
If your pet shows signs of heatstroke, get help as a matter of urgency. Symptoms include glazed eyes, heavy panting and an unusually fast pulse.
You might not have long to get your little friend the treatment they urgently need, so seek out a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.
With a combination of luck and vigilance, you might just need to give your dog a drink to have them back on their feet, but it’s worth keeping a watchful eye out for those early warning signs, to avoid a hefty fine and even prison time.