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 Advocate, points out the RSPCA receives many reports of animals left in vehicles when temperatures rise.

“People should never leave their animals unattended in vehicles – even for a short period of time. Better still, pet owners should leave their animals at home during the warmer months”, she says.

Temperatures in a car rise to dangerous levels on hot days, 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.

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, if 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.

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

Avoid exercising your dog during the middle of the day when it is hot outside – instead go for a walk early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s cooler. Avoid walking on hot sand, concrete or asphalt. If you can’t hold the back of your hand to ground outside for more than a few seconds, it’s too hot for your pet. The same goes for the back of a ute – dogs are at risk of serious burns when the metal tray heats up. If your dog is outside, never leave them tethered while unattended.

“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 they have plenty of water and shade during hot weather.

Small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, birds, rats and mice are highly susceptible to heatstroke. They are also often confined to cages which means they can’t move into cooler places. Make sure they have a cool, shade and well-ventilated area with access to clean, fresh drinking water. On very hot days, this might mean moving them inside. And always have more than one water source available for your pet in case they knock over a bowl.

Remember too that the sun moves throughout the day, so you need to ensure you have plenty of shade available to your pets at any time.

Just like us, pets can get sunburned – and, also just like us, sunburn can lead to conditions like skin cancer. This is particularly a concern in white-haired dog and cats. Pet sunscreen is an option for some animals, but keeping your pet in the shade as much as possible will help minimise the risk of sunburn.

Let’s not forget that native animals will be seeking shade and water too. Leaving fresh water containers out each day for birds, lizards, kangaroos, possums etc is easy to do! Just fill up and place sources of water at varying heights in your backyard.

By taking some simple precautions, you can ensure that the hot summer months are as safe as possible for your pets and other animals.

Stay alert – 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: https://justsixminutes.com.au/wp-content/themes/justsixmin/pdf/DDIHC_Online-Info-Sheet-RSPCA0173_16.pdf


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