Dog owners are being warned not to leave their pets in their cars after reports of people having to smash car windows to save dogs that are overheating.

The warning comes amid Britain’s ongoing heatwave, which is forecast to continue until at least the end of this week.

According to research published last year by Confused.com, over two fifths (44%) of dog-owning motorists have left their dog in the car, and seven out of 10 (70%) did so on a hot day for eight minutes.

Animal charity the RSPCA, warns that when it is just 22 degrees outside, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.

What to do if you find an overheating dog

The RSPCA provides the following advice on how to help a dog in a hot car:

  • Establish the animal's health and condition. If it is displaying any signs of heatstroke dial 999 immediately.
  • If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away or unable to attend, many people’s instinct will be to break into the car to free the dog. If you decide to do this, please be aware that without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court.
  • Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why. Take pictures or videos of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident. The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).
  • Once removed, if the dog is displaying signs of heatstroke, follow the RSPCA’s emergency first aid advice. This could mean the difference between life and death for the dog.

The insurance impact

What if you leave your dog in your car on a hot day, with the windows closed, and a passer-by feels compelled to break a window to rescue it? Would your car insurance cover the damage?

The answer is that it probably wouldn’t, but you would need to check with your insurance company to be sure.

As a general rule, never leave your dog alone in a car, even with the windows open.

Tips to keep your dog cool

Animal charity Blue Cross offers the following additional advice to keep a dog cool and prevent heatstroke:

  • Make sure your dog always has access to clean water, ideally a large bowl filled to the brim. Carry water and a bowl with you on walks.
  • On hot days, walk your dog during the cooler parts of the day, in the early morning and late evening.
  • Watch your pet for signs of over-heating, including heavy panting and loss of energy. If you recognise these signs when on a walk, stop, find a shady spot and give your dog water.
  • Make cooling tasty treats by making ice cubes with your dog’s favourite food inside.
  • Be particularly careful with short nosed dogs such as bull breeds, boxers, pugs, older dogs, and those that are overweight. These dogs can get heatstroke simply by running around.