How Hot is Too Hot to Leave Your Dog in the Car?

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Although it may be safe to leave your dog in the car for short periods in mild weather, you should never leave them unattended in the car if it’s below freezing or above 70°F.
If you have car insurance through Jerry, you might be saving so much that you just can't bear to stay home. And if your pup is your BFF, it's only natural you'd want to bring them along for a ride. Still, if you're out running errands, it may be better to leave them at home.
Keep reading for more tips on the safe temperature to leave a dog in the car, when to leave your dog at home, how to keep them safer in the vehicle if you do bring them along.
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What temperature can you leave your dog in the car?

There’s no safe temperature to leave a dog alone in the car for more than 5 minutes. 
That said, if you absolutely must bring your dog with you when you’re out and about, you can safely leave them in the car for up to 5 minutes if the temperature is above 32°F and below 70°F.
You should never leave your dog in the car unattended outside of this temperature range.

How can I make it safer to leave my dog in the car?

Even if the temperature is mild, there are some simple things you can do to ensure your dog stays safe while in the car.
  • Park in the shade
  • Crack a window for some airflow—but keep in mind this has a minimal effect on the temperature
  • Leave someone in the car so you can keep the air conditioning on, if possible
  • Be quick—if you can’t get in and out within 5 minutes, leave the errand for another time

Does the temperature really change that much inside a car?

You might be surprised how quickly temperatures can rise inside a vehicle. Even on a 70°F day, the temperature inside your vehicle can hit 115°F
It happens quickly, too—most of that temperature rise occurs in the first 30 minutes. On a really hot day, your car can get up to 140°F in less than an hour. That is life-threatening for your dog.
Cold weather can be dangerous, too. If the temperature is below freezing outside, your dog can quickly get hypothermia once the heater is turned off in the vehicle.

What are the risks of leaving my dog in the car?

The biggest risk is to your dog’s health. Dogs experience heat exhaustion when their body temperature hits 103°F and may suffer from heatstroke if they reach 105°F. Even a few minutes too long in a hot car can be enough to cause serious, lasting health issues or death.
For breeds that are more susceptible to overheating, like pugs and bulldogs, the risk is even greater.
In addition, leaving your dog alone in the car is illegal in 28 states—so you could get a citation or a ticket. And if someone breaks into your vehicle to free your dog, they may be protected under the law.
Key Takeaway Leaving your dog in the car can be dangerous to their health and may be illegal depending on where you live.
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What should I do with my dog instead?

If you have to run errands but are (rightfully) wary of leaving your dog in the car, here are some things to consider.
  • Bring your dog inside. Many businesses allow dogs to come inside. As long as you have a leash with you, ask if your pooch can tag along!
  • Have someone wait with your dog. If you have a passenger with you, ask them to wait in the car (or outside the store) with your dog. That way, you don’t have to worry about time and your dog is with someone you trust.
  • Use doggy daycare. There are lots of daycares that will be happy to watch your dog while you run your errands. And bonus—your dog will return home tired after a fun day playing with the other pups.
  • Look for temperature-controlled kennels. Some businesses have kennels outside for customer use. If the temperature can be regulated, then you’re safe to leave your dog for a short time while you go inside.
  • Leave your dog at home. Sometimes the easiest thing is just to leave your pup at home. While many dogs enjoy car trips, they probably don’t need to come with you for those weekend errands.

What should I do if I see a dog left in a car?

Now that you know how to keep your own pup safe, you might be more likely to notice if someone else has left their dog in their vehicle for too long. 
If you spot a dog in a hot or cold car, here’s what to do:
  • Write down the vehicle’s make, model, and license plate number
  • Go into the nearest business and try to find the vehicle’s owner
  • If you can’t locate the driver, call the authorities
Pro Tip If you see a dog left in a vehicle, breaking in should be your last resort. It could be dangerous for both you and the dog.

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FAQs

As long as the weather is above freezing and below 70°F, you can safely leave your dog in the car for up to 5 minutes.
Your dog will probably be okay if you’re only gone for 5 minutes or less. Longer than that, though, and the temperature can start to get dangerously hot.
Just cracking the windows isn’t enough to make a significant difference in the temperature of the car. And if the windows are all the way down, you run the risk of your dog jumping out of the vehicle.

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