Dogs also die of heat in Dutch cars and not just in the Summer

Blog post about the dangers of rising temperatures for your dog, even in The Netherlands. May 2017
Article by Laure-Anne Visele. References and picture credits at the end of the post.

About author: certified dog trainer and applied behaviourist in The Hague


My name is Laure-Anne and I am the dog behaviour therapist at Canis bonus, and Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague).

I help people from The Hague, Rijswijk, Delft, Westland and region with their dog behaviour questions.

I studied Zoology, am a certified dog training instructor, and have a Postgraduate in applied animal behaviour (completed Magna cum laude).

If you want dog-friendly and evidence-based tips, drop me a line briefly explaining the problem and I’ll tell you if I think I can help.

Bouvier dog dies of a heat stroke in Limburg

It’s happened again: yesterday, in Limburg (Netherlands), a Bouvier dog died of heat after being left in the car. Before you judge, bear in mind the assumptions the owner must have had: It doesn’t happen in the Netherlands and surely it doesn’t happen in the spring.

Wrong and wrong.

Here’s another assumption a friend of mine made, with heart-breaking circumstances. His dog, a large Rottweiler cross, loved napping in the back of my friend’s van. The van was in the garage (not even exposed to the sun) and the dog had complete autonomy of movement. The dog chose to nap there. During one of the hottest days of the year, two years ago, my dog found his dog dead in the back of the van.

Don’t make the same assumptions this dog owner did

Here are more assumptions I’d like to challenge. Surely the dog can’t overheat if…

  1. It’s just 20C outside, right? (wrong, the car turns into an inferno scarily quickly)
  2. I leave the windows open, right? (wrong, this barely makes a difference at all)
  3. I don’t make him exercise, he chooses to (wrong, some are so motivated to run that they will literally run themselves to death)
  4. I leave the air conditioning on, right? (wrong, the car can have a safety mechanism that switches it off when over-heated)
  5. I park the car in the shade, right? (wrong, it just happens a few minutes slower)
  6. I leave water for the dog, right? (wrong)
  7. I make sure of all of the above.  (wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security)

How quickly does the temperature rise in the car?

I made this graphic based on numbers released by AVMA. Bear in mind there some variables can affect this estimate, and they are a rule of thumb to give you an idea of how scarily fast the temperature inside a parked car can hike up.

The numbers are pretty scary: starting with an outside temperature as low as 21 degrees, the car’s temperature can rise up to over 30 degrees in about 15 minutes, and nearly 40 degrees (fatal for many dogs after a few minutes) after just over half an hour. Starting at an outside temp of 25 degrees, the car can reach 40 degrees (fatal for dogs in a matter of minutes) in about a quarter of an hour. On a hot day, say, 29 degrees, the fatal 40 degrees can be reached in a matter of minutes.


What to do if you spot a dog alone in a parked car on a warm day?

Call the police directly unless you can directly track the owner. Do not wait a few minutes as this can be fatal. You will look like an alarmist do-gooding drama-queen and the owner won’t thank you for it but a dog’s life is at risk. If you track the owner and they appear unconcerned and unrepentant, call the animal protection agency (call 144 in The Netherlands) so they can investigate whether the dog in chronically neglected and endangered.

What to do to avoid heat strokes in dogs

  • Do not leave your dog in the car, not even for five minutes, in temperatures above 17-18 degrees. If you must do it, then have someone staying behind in the car so they can leave the car if need be. You could leave the dog at home or adapt your plans and ask the dog be let inside when at all possible.
  • Be particularly mindful of short-nosed dogs like Boxers and pugs, and of dogs who are not in top form like elderly dogs or dogs with a known heart condition.
  • Be sure to get your dog to drink much more than usual on hotter days. You could drop some of your dog’s kibble in his water if he appears uninterested.
  • Do not allow your dog to run himself to death. Very motivated dogs will not listen to their body, high as they are on the joy of exercising. Enforce regular breaks and do not allow strenuous exercises.
  • Reduce the duration of your walks and go for more frequent, shorter walks. Pick less sunny times of day like the morning and early evening.
  • Let your dog walk predominantly on grass on hot days, as the asphalt quickly gets muuuuch hotter than the ambient air temperature. You could even consider protective dog boots, but be sure it still allows the dog to sweat through the sole of its feet, and be sure to condition the dog to them first.
  • Avoid fully exposed, sunny areas and pick a walk in the forest instead, where the dog will find more shade.
  • You could also try a cooling vest and cooling mat for the hottest moments of the day.
  • You could freeze your dog’s regular food in a food-dispensing toy like a Kong, and give your dog his frozen breakfast/lunch/dinner to lick out of the Kong.
  • You could drop some ice cubes in your dog’s water bowl.
  • If your dog enjoys swimming, replace your dog’s bout of running or frisbee with a cool dip at the local pond or river. Of course, dangerous pathogens like blue algae flourish in hot temperatures, so be sure to check the quality of the water first.

Illustration credits

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