Can I leave my dog in my car during the winter?

November 29, 2017 at 2:57 PM by Nikki Wardle

Dog in cold-weather

Many pet owners love their dogs enough to want to spend as much time as possible with them, so it’s no surprise when they choose to bring their furry friends along on errands or to events. Many public places are dog-friendly and welcome your pet in, but more often than not, grocery stores and other businesses where food is prepared and/or served don’t allow animals inside. Because of this, many owners wonder: can I leave my dog in the car during the winter months?

Leaving a Dog in the Cold Car

We’ve all heard the horror stories and warnings about dogs in hot cars during the summer. When temperatures reach even a mild 70º Fahrenheit, closed cars can climb into the 90s within just 10 minutes, subjecting your fur-coated dog to dangerous heat and suffering from heat stroke. But what about during the winter when outdoor temperatures are cool? Is there are safe temperature to leave your dog in the car?

The short answer: no. For your pet’s health and safety, you should never leave them unattended in a car, no matter what the outside temperature is. Mild days in the 60s and 70s can still put your dog at risk of high heat exposure, while concerns over hypothermia begin when temperatures are in the 50s.

In the winter, cars can quickly cool to the outside temperature, and especially small and inside-only dogs are at risk for serious cold-related issues (think hypothermia). Many dog owners crack the windows to ensure air circulation when they leave a dog in the car, only causing more potential issues when the temperatures are cold. Hypothermia is a significant concern, and certainly isn’t worth your trip to the store, for a bite to eat, or to the movies. If you’re not sure that you’ll be able to take your dog with you to every location on your errands, don’t risk it—leave them at home where they’re safe and secure.

What to Do if You See a Dog Unattended in a Car

Currently, 22 states have laws on the books that protect dogs from being neglected by making it illegal to leave them in a parked vehicle. The penalties for these infractions range from fines to jail time and vary across states. However, this doesn’t mean that you can take matters into your own hands should you come across an unattended dog in a car.

Your first line of defense should always be to try to contact the owner immediately. Take note of the license plate. Enter the business the car is parked outside of and talk to management, asking them to page customers over the loud system. If no one comes forward quickly, make a call to the authorities such as local law enforcement or animal control so they can legally ensure the dog's safety.

This winter, keep your dog safe and leave them behind when in doubt. If you have questions about your dog’s health and safety, contact us.

Topics: Pet Care

Nikki Wardle

Written by Nikki Wardle

Nikki has been writing for Intermountain Pet Hospital since 2014.

Keep pets safe when its cold outside