How to

10 October 2016

Why You Shouldn’t Leave Your Pet in the Car This Winter


During the summer months, warnings about the dangers of leaving your cherished pet locked in a vehicle are commonplace. The fact that some people still manage to either miss or intentionally ignore these warnings and continue to leave vulnerable animals to suffer in such situations is both shocking and despicable. What you hear less about however, is the horrifying effect that being trapped in a cold vehicle can have on your pet’s health.

In cold environments, many pet owners take one look at their dog’s fluffy coat and presume that cold is not an issue. This can be a dangerous assumption.

Despite the fact that the average body temperature of cats and dogs is slightly higher than that of humans (approx. 102°F compared to our 98.6°F), they actually lose body heat at a faster rate. This means that their temperature only has to drop down to a low of around 99-100°F for them to be defined as in a hypothermic state, and this can happen fairly quickly. While cases of mild hypothermia can be effectively treated, with the affected usually making a full recovery, this must be done with haste. If their body temperature drops to 82°F, there’s nothing more you can do to save ol’ Fido.

While you do need to be careful no matter what the species of your pet may be, and the issues are more commonplace with canine breeds as they tend to travel with their owners more often, it is worth noting that dogs are better at retaining their body heat than cats. This is due to their fur; dogs have 2 layers, a downy undercoat and the topcoat that you see. Cats lack the undercoat, and therefore lose heat at a faster rate. So, please be mindful of locking a wandering cat outside overnight in the winter.

You may think that an easy solution to this problem is to leave your dog in the car with the engine running and the heating turned on. This can actually be far more dangerous than you might expect, due to the invisible killer that is carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous, invisible and odourless gas produced by the engine of your car, among other sources. Build-ups of carbon monoxide can easily be deadly to humans, hence the common method of committing suicide by sitting in closed garage with your engine running. As a result of their smaller body mass, pets are far more vulnerable to the gas than we are; just 15 minutes in a sealed car can have deadly results. If you absolutely must leave your pet in the car with the engine running, you must open a window. This is, of course, far from ideal, as it allows more heat to escape, increasing the severity of related threats.

A far better solution than leaving the heating on is to ensure you always carry blankets of some description in your vehicle. This way, if temperatures do drop too low, your cherished pet can snuggle up for warmth in the folds.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.