Our mission: To protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

 July 30, 2015

With temperatures soaring across the Interior, the Kelowna Branch of the BC SPCA, the Kelowna RCMP and the Regional District of Central Okanagan Dog Control Service are issuing a warning about the dangers of leaving pets unattended in hot vehicles.

“Each summer our agencies receive hundreds of emergency calls to rescue dogs whose lives are endangered because they are left in hot cars,” says Suzanne Pugh, manager of the BC SPCA Kelowna Branch. “Many well-meaning guardians leave their pets in parked vehicles while they run errands, thinking they will be safe for a short period. Tragically, in hot weather their pets can suffer serious heatstroke and die in a matter of minutes.”

She notes that last year the BC SPCA received more than 1,100 calls about animals left in hot vehicles and that number is on the rise – so far this summer the SPCA has responded to 840 calls about dogs in hot cars, compared with 514 this time last year. In Kelowna, the SPCA has already responded to more than 80 calls.

RCMP Const. Steve Holmes agrees that 2015 is gearing up to be one of the worst summers yet for calls to rescue pets in distress.

“In 2013 the RCMP responded to 36 complaints about dogs in hot vehicles, in 2014 the total was 51 and this year we have already responded to 53 calls about animals in distress.”

The temperature in a parked car, even in the shade with windows partly open, can rapidly reach a level that will seriously harm or even kill a pet. In just minutes, the temperature in a parked car can climb to well over 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Dogs have no sweat glands, so they cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws. On summer days the hot air and upholstery in a vehicle can make it impossible for pets to cool themselves. Dogs can withstand high temperatures for only a very short time – usually just 15 to 20 minutes - before suffering irreparable internal organ and brain damage or death.

“You shouldn’t have to put on a fur coat and sit in a hot car with the windows rolled up to understand how dangerous it is for your pet to be left there,” says Holmes. “Leaving your pet at home is the best thing to do if you are shopping. If you must take your pet, make sure there is a second person who can stay with your pet in a shaded area.”


What to do if you see a dog in distress in a parked vehicle:

  • Note the license plate and ask managers of nearby businesses to page the owner to return to their vehicle immediately;
  • Call for emergency assistance - local animal control authorities or the non-emergency police number (or 911, depending on the level of distress);
  • Keep emergency supplies - bottled water, a small bowl, a towel that can be soaked in water - in your car so that you can help hydrate an animal (if a window has been left open) while you wait for emergency response;
  • Be an advocate! Help spread the word that pets and hot vehicles are a fatal mix. Contact the BC SPCA for a #HotPetsNotCool decal for your vehicle and download posters and other materials at to put up in malls and other areas in your community where pets are left unattended in vehicles.

Symptoms of heatstroke in pets:

  • Exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting)

  • Rapid or erratic pulse

  • Salivation

  • Anxious or staring expression

  • Weakness and muscle tremors

  • Lack of coordination, convulsions

  • Vomiting

  • Collapse

If your pet shows symptoms of heatstroke:

  • Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place

  • Wet the dog with cool water

  • Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This will cool the blood, which reduces the animal’s core temperature

  • Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow, which will inhibit cooling.

  • Allow the animal to drink some cool water (or to lick ice cream if no water is available)

  • Take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

Don’t have email? Don’t worry! Call us at 1-800-665-1868


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