Hot dogs? No thanks! Keep your canines cool in the car as temperatures soar

While Brits are excited for the long-awaited heatwave this weekend, pets will be hot under the collar. A dog’s body temperature is consistently two degrees warmer than a human’s, and they’ll be feeling the heat, especially in the car.

When it’s warm outside, cars can act like a greenhouse and trap the sun’s heat — so if it’s 23ºC outside, in-car temperatures can reach a whopping 47ºC in under 10 minutes. That’s hotter than the aptly-named Furnace Creek, Death Valley; a Californian spot known as the hottest place on Earth. Anna warns that when a dog’s temperature hits 40ºC, they are at risk of life-threatening heatstroke.

Drawing on over 20 years of experience, Anna’s top tips for the nation’s dog-owning drivers include ice cubes on dogs’ gums, meaty mocktails and a cooling vest or mat to chill underbellies.

Škoda has a long-standing commitment to the care of canines, shown most recently by its sponsorship of Crufts 2023. Earlier this year, the Czech brand drew on Anna’s expertise to create a mindfulness playlist to calm anxious dogs in the car — and this remains just as relevant heading into the summer months.

A dog’s mental health has a big impact on its body temperature. According to Anna, if a hound is relaxed in the car, it’ll be less likely to feel hot, as raised cortisol levels increase body temperature and thirst.

Tasty treats combined with short acclimatising sessions in the car, along with the Škoda ‘Happy Hounds’ playlist – calming selection of songs curated especially for dogs – can prepare pooches for the stress and heat of a long journey.

Dog behaviourist and Nutritionist Anna Webb commented: “During a time where we will be making the most of the warmer weather, it’s important to remember that we share our homes and our cars with our pets, so we must keep their needs in mind.”

“It can take under an hour for a dog to be pushed to the brink by extreme heat, and that time comes around so much faster when they are in a warm car. Pet owners need to be aware of the dangers so they can help protect their pups.”

“It’s heart-warming to see Škoda continuing to speak-up for the nation’s pets, as they so often go unspoken for. I’m also proud that I can be the voice of the community, to better everyone’s understanding of what dogs need.”

Please find the full list of tips included below.

Anna Webb’s top tips on keeping dogs safe in a car during warmer weather:

  1. A dog’s body temperature is always two degrees Celsius hotter than ours, with normal levels between 38.3 – 39.2 degrees Celsius. Small dogs tend to run hotter as they have faster metabolisms than larger dogs. Never leave your dog in a stationary car, even with the windows open, or in the shade, as the car turns into a greenhouse. When it’s 22ºC outside in a stationary vehicle, without air conditioning, temperatures ‘in car’ can reach 47ºC in fewer than 10 minutes.
  2. De-sensitise your dog to travelling in the car before any long journey, but especially when it’s hot. Signs that your dog is feeling the heat (or going Hyperthermic) will be excessive panting, drooling and restlessness. A dog that’s relaxed in the car will be less likely to feel hot. Raised cortisol levels increase a dog’s body temperature and thirst.
  3. Cooling vests and mats work to keep your dog’s underbelly nice and chilled. Make sure your dog is ‘carrier-trained’ for maximum comfort. Carriers should be well-ventilated and spacious enough for your pooch to turn around.
  4. Use tasty treats to help train your dog to enjoy their cooling accessories in their carrier (or seat belt) indoors first! Make the acclimatising sessions very short and always finish on a positive note. Your dog could get stressed or bored in the car and chew the cooling mat and/or the vest — becoming more stressed and even hotter.
  5. Cooling vests should be soaked in cold water before you put them on your pet. The simple process of evaporation from the heat of the dog dries the vest, cooling them down. They do need to be re-dampened — maybe combine this with a comfort break for the dog (or for you) at the services.Combine these indoor travel sessions with the Škoda ‘Happy Hounds’ playlist. Association with positive experiences indoors, like this calming playlist, will help your dog relax. When you’re confident your dog is calm in their pet carrier with their cooling ‘kit’ and the playlist, transfer them to the car. Gradually extend the time with the engine off and the engine on. At the first sign of any stress, including panting or drooling, stop! Try again tomorrow…
  6. Before setting off, check that your air-conditioning is reaching the back seat. If not, or if your dog travels in the boot, securely attach some portable fans to encourage air circulation and cooling.
  7. Take regular comfort breaks in the shade so your dog keeps cool. Avoid tarmac and concrete paths — both absorb heat and can burn bare paw-pads. Be mindful to park your car in a shady spot and think of windscreen sun shades to help keep your car cool.
  8. In summer months, travel in the cooler times of the day - early morning or evening. Make sure your car is roadworthy to minimise concerns of breaking down in the heat.
  9. Be prepared – take your dog’s drinking bowl or a portable bowl, but check your dog will drink from it before you set off! Take a cool bag with plenty of fresh bottled water and a flask of ice cubes. Simply melting an ice cube on your dog’s gums cools them very quickly, or just offering an ice cube to lick and crunch is fun on your comfort break. Keep a wet towel in your cool bag. If your dog overheats, wrap them in the cool towel and keep dampening it with cold water. Do this in the shade or in a cool room. Pouring water directly on your dog is ineffective as it simply runs off and evaporates.
  10. Frequently, an overheated dog will refuse to drink. This is their instinct kicking in as they associate drinking with peeing, which means they would lose body fluids. I recommend packing an isotonic hydration drink especially for dogs, or some pre-packed broth, in your cool bag. Both contain electrolytes and minerals, along with a meaty flavour, which will get your dog drinking and hydrate them quickly.
  11. When ‘staycationing’ always take familiar toys, chews and blankets with you to make your dog feel at home!