Here’s how to stop your pets dying in hot summer weather

The first day of summer has hit, prompting fears of an epidemic of heat stress related injuries and possible death for local animals.

RSPCA NSW is urging pet owners to not leave dogs unattended in cars and to take extra precautions to help ensure animals have constant access to water and shade, as potentially lethal heat stress can develop extremely quickly in hot weather – in as little as six minutes.

Already earlier this week, a couple were charged after leaving their three-month-old Cavalier puppy in the boot of their car while shopping in Bondi Junction after passers-by heard the pup crying.

Last summer RSPCA NSW received almost 300 reports of animals with potential heat stress and just shy of 80 complaints of pets locked in cars. Multiple dogs died of avoidable heat stress and RSPCA NSW is pleading with pet owners to take heed and not repeat last summer.

One of the avoidable deaths was in a car parked in an underground carpark with the windows wound down - a common misconception that leaving a dog in a car parked in the shade or with the windows down is safe. Another incident resulted in four dogs dying after being left in the back of a ute canopy in Gulgong, NSW.

“It’s apparent some people are just not getting the message that a parked car is no place for a dog. It can be lethal, as we see all too often,” RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector, David OShannessy said.

“It only takes six minutes for an animal to die from heat stroke. Cars parked in the sun can reach temperatures in excess of 80 degrees celsius, and can remain dangerously hot even if the windows are open.

“Evidently, even cars parked in the shade – even in an underground carpark – can reach lethal temperatures. A dog cannot sweat in these conditions and panting increases the heat in the car.”

“Cars left stationary in the sun become ovens. Ute trays also become extremely hot, so dogs can suffer a similar fate. If a dog dies from being left in a car, the owner can receive a $22,000 fine and a two-year prison sentence,” comments OShannessy. “Parked cars are death traps. Just don’t do it.”

Plan ahead

RSPCA NSW is urging pet owners to plan ahead – don’t take your dog with you in the car unless absolutely vital. Make appropriate arrangements like leaving them at home in the air conditioning or a fan, and take extra precautions to help ensure animals have constant access to water and shade, as potentially lethal heat stress can develop extremely quickly in hot weather.

Walking your dog during the heat of the day can result in excruciating blistered feet pads, so wait until early morning or the evening.

If animals need to be left in the backyard, they must also be able to access shelter and water. If a dog is tethered they can become tangled and be unable to reach their water or shelter. RSPCA NSW recommends that there are at least two to three containers of water in case one gets knocked over. A dog can survive for a few days without food, but in this weather, if it has no shade or water it will die.

Another thing to consider is pocket pets like rabbits and guinea pigs that are often left in cages outside and can’t get out of the heat. If the shade moves throughout the day, a cage can quickly turn into an oven.

Heat stress looks like:

  • Excessive panting for dogs
  • Any kind of panting or increase in breathing for cats, birds, rabbits, ferrets or Guinea Pigs
  • Dark red gums or tongue
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse

If you think your pet is suffering from heat stroke, please urgently call an RSPCA veterinary hospital or your local veterinarian.

Take the pledge to never leave your dog in a hot car: