With the weather warming up, the RSPCA is warning people that it can take less than six minutes for an animal to die in a hot vehicle.

Jan Davis, RSPCA Chief Executive, says that temperatures in a car can rise to dangerous levels and can rapidly reach more than double the outside temperature even on mild days. Tinting, parking in the shade, or leaving the windows open do not help to reduce the inside temperature significantly.

The RSPCA received many reports of animals left in vehicles last year. Perhaps this happens because many owners don’t really understand what happens to a dog’s body in overheating and heatstroke.

Dogs don’t sweat, except to a minor degree through their foot pads, so they can’t tolerate high environmental temperatures. They use panting as a way to exchange warm air for cool air but, when the air temperature is close to the dog’s body temperature, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.

If a dog’s internal temperature goes above 41°C, it is at risk of heatstroke. Some breeds are more susceptible than others – large dogs, dogs with short faces such as bulldogs and boxers, and overweight or long-coated dogs are most at risk – but every dog has the potential to suffer from heatstroke. It doesn’t have to be boiling hot for this to happen, either – when it’s 22°C outside, the inside of a car can easily reach 47°C within an hour.

Even mild heatstroke is an emergency  which only 50% of dogs will survive. Treatment of heatstroke is intensive and difficult, and the sooner it is started the better. If you think your pet is affected by heatstroke, you should immediately seek the help of a vet.

“People should never leave their animals unattended in vehicles or even on the back of a ute, even for a short period of time. Better still, pet owners should leave their animals at home during the warmer months,” Ms Davis says.

“Losing your best mate in such horrendous circumstances would be devastating. So please never, ever, leave your dog in a car.”

Of course, it is not only dogs that suffer in the heat. You need to make sure all animals in your care have plenty of water and shade during hot weather.

Causing animals to suffer in any way is a criminal offence. If your pet suffers as a result of being left exposed in harsh weather conditions, you can be fined and spend time in jail.


  • Do not leave your dog in a vehicle – even when the windows are down, dogs can still overheat and die.
  • Even on mild days, the temperature inside the vehicle rises rapidly to dangerous levels.
  • Heat stress is an emergency. Veterinary help should be sought as soon as possible if heat stroke is suspected.
  • Initial emergency treatment should aim to normalise body temperature. Apply or spray tepid/cool water onto the animal’s fur/skin, followed by fanning of the wet fur. Don’t use ice-cold water or ice, as this may exacerbate the problem.

If you see a dog in distress in a car on a hot day, phone the police on 131 444, and they will advise you what to do.

Pet Heat Stroke Prevention Info Sheet

Jan Davis, CEO – RSPCA Tasmania
Mobile: 0409 004 228
Email: jdavis@rspcatas.org.au