How Cold Is Too Cold To Leave Your Dog In The Car?

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Cars Don’t Insulate Heat

It’s not summer anymore, which we all know can be deadly for dogs locked in hot cars with the windows rolled up. Leaving your dog alone in a car when it's cold can be just as harmful. Cars don’t insulate heat, which means that when you turn the heater off it will start to cool down within minutes. On mornings when I have to drive to work at 8:00 am and it's 50 degrees outside I'm shivering. I'm typically sitting in my car shaking as wait for the heater to warm up. Luckily I'm able to adjust the temperature of the car with ease, but my dog can't do that. Dogs can develop hypothermia very quickly once their body temperature drops to 99 degrees F (37.2 C) Keep in mind, a dog’s internal temperature is typically between 101-102.5 degrees F (38.3 to 39.2C).


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Signs To Look For

Notice how they’re similar to what people go through:

  1. Rabid breathing followed by slower and shallow breaths

  2. Fast heart rate followed by slower heart rate

  3. Delayed reactions, sluggishness, clumsiness

  4. Cold extremities and paleness

  5. Dilated pupils

  6. Unconsciousness

These signs are to be taken seriously and immediate warmth is to be given, your dog's life depends on it. Turn on your car heater to try to bring them back to normal as you call your vet to get their opinion on whether or not you should bring them in. In extreme cases, your dog could develop frostbite, which is tissue damage from the blood being redirected from their extremities to their organs to help keep them alive. In that case, you’ll need to bring them to the emergency vet. If your veterinarian says you don't need to bring them in make sure to warm them up once you get home. You can do that by warming up a blanket in the dryer and then wrapping that blanket around your dog. You can also wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and place it on your dog's tummy. Make sure you wrap the hot water bottle well because if you don't you could burn your dog's stomach. If you're worried about your dog moving around and the towel coming off you can always get a hot water bottle that comes with a softcover.


In Conclusion

For your pet’s safety, you should never leave them alone in a car, no matter what the outside temperature is. Even when it's only 60 or 70 degrees outside your dog is at risk of high heat exposure, the temperature inside will steadily increase well beyond 90 degrees. Hypothermia can set in when it's around 50 degrees outside.

If there’s an unavoidable need to have your dog in a vehicle when it's freezing outside, make sure you give them a thick blanket so they can keep warm. You can even bunch the blanks up and put a hot water bottle with a softcover under it for extra warmth. An even better alternative is to have someone accompany you for the ride, that person will wait in the car with the dog as you get some shopping done. Which will also prevent strangers from teasing your dog and stressing them out. Many dogs die every year from being left alone in a car for too long, don't let your dog be another statistic.

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