Is it OK to leave my dog in the car while I do a five-minute errand?
Every year pets — and even children — die because they were left in a car for “just a minute.” So the short answer is no, it’s generally not OK to leave your dog in the car for a five-minute errand. Let’s explore why.
Heat and cars are a dangerous mix
The car acts like an oven when the sun is shining on it. The heat quickly builds up due to the radiant energy from the hot metal, so “cracking” a window is not adequate. If it is 90 degrees outside, the interior of the car can be 113 degrees within 10 minutes and 120 degrees by 20 minutes. If there’s a dog inside, the heat will cook them.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that causes high body temperature (above 105 degrees), rapid pulses, difficulty breathing, and disorientation. In the car, this can happen within minutes. Even with heroic efforts and expensive treatment, a dog’s condition can progress quickly. Swelling of the brain, kidney failure, or/and DIC (the inability to clot blood) can result.
This is such a potentially fatal but preventable condition. Never leave a dog unattended in a car in hot weather for any amount of time.
Mild weather is no excuse
“It doesn’t have to be that warm outside for a car to become dangerously hot inside,” the Humane Society of the United States reports.
In fact, even if it’s a mild 72 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can rise to 116 degrees within an hour. Thinking about rolling the window down? That actually doesn’t help much.
We can hear you saying, “But it’s only five minutes!” Except…what if it isn’t?
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen a case yet where there’s been any intent of injuring their pet – it’s always something flukey, they went into the store and they got distracted,” Dr. Nicole Gallant, president-elect of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), told The Globe and Mail. “And the owners are just devastated — it’s never the bad owners, they usually don’t take their pets with them.”
Other reasons not to leave your dog in the car
Heat isn’t the only reason to avoid leaving a dog in the car alone. Here are some other safety risks:
Anxiety and stress
Dogs are social animals that thrive on companionship. When left alone in a confined space like a car, they may experience significant anxiety and stress. Being separated from their human family in an unfamiliar and potentially frightening environment can lead to intense feelings of isolation and fear for dogs. This heightened emotional state can manifest in destructive behavior, excessive barking, and even self-harm attempts as they attempt to escape the vehicle.
Leaving a dog unattended in a car can expose them to various physical injuries. Dogs may become entangled in seat belts, accidentally activate power windows, or injure themselves by chewing on interior elements of the vehicle.
Leaving a dog alone in a parked car makes them vulnerable to theft. Opportunistic thieves may break into the vehicle to steal valuable items, unaware of the presence of a dog inside. In other cases, a dog thief may target your pup when they see them alone in your car.
Whenever possible, leave your pup at home while you run errands. Your dog is safer and happier in their crate or dog room rather than alone in a car.