The warning comes following last summer’s record-breaking heat – where temperatures reached 40.3°C in some parts of the country.
The charity has teamed up with the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations to issue a UK-wide plea to the public to avoid leaving dogs in vehicles on hot days and are extending their campaign to warn pet owners about the dangers that hot walks pose to dogs.
A survey by the British Veterinary Association after 2022’s record-breaking summer found that while around one in 10 (9%) vets in small animal practice had seen at least one dog affected by the heat after being left in a hot car, almost four times as many vets (38%) had seen at least one dog affected by the heat after being walked or exercised in hot weather.
Taking pets outdoors in hot spells could be a ‘silent killer.’ Whilst the majority of dog owners would no longer ever dream of leaving their beloved pet in a car on a hot day, many people still inadvertently put their dogs at serious risk by taking them out for a walk, or for a day out to the beach or park, during hot spells.
Temperatures inside a car can reach deadly levels in just minute. The Scottish SPCA received 427 reports of dogs in hot cars in 2022, and so far this year 137 calls have been made from concerned members of the public about dogs in hot cars.
Exercising your dog in hot weather could cause them just as much harm as leaving your canine in a hot car. If dogs are too hot and unable to reduce their body temperature by panting, they will develop heatstroke, which can be fatal.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “If you imagine being trapped in an oven with a fur coat, it will give you some sense of how a dog can feel inside a hot car.
“It only takes a few minutes for a dog to overheat in a hot vehicle and leaving a window open or a bowl of water simply is not good enough. Our message is simple – don’t risk it. 22 degrees outside can mean 44 degrees inside the car.
“Exercising dogs in hot weather can also present a huge risk to our beloved animals and can be just as deadly.
“Every single dog owner needs to be savvy as we enter summer, and be mindful of potential harm caused to dogs by more strenuous or sustained exercise on warmer days. Too many times we have seen people out running with their dogs, cycling with their dogs running alongside, or throwing balls for their dogs during hot weather, with beloved pets often left panting heavily and at serious risk of overheating.
“Some dogs are more prone to heatstroke than others – such as very old or young dogs, those with thick, heavy coats or those with short, flat faces (such as pugs and boxers). Dogs with certain diseases or on some types of medication are also prone to heatstroke.”
British Veterinary Association junior vice president Anna Judson, said: “Every year, vets see a large number of cases of dogs requiring treatment for heat-related conditions, many of which are a result of being walked or exercised during the hottest parts of the day. It’s important that owners don’t let their guard down even when official warnings aren’t in place.
“We would like to see it become the norm that dog owners always err on the side of caution when it comes to hot weather, and instead, walk their pets in the early morning or late dusk when temperatures are cooler.
“If every pet owner can arm themselves with the knowledge to detect the early signs of heatstroke, as well as get into the habit of appropriately leaving their dogs at home in a cool, well-ventilated space at the first sign of hot weather, we really believe many animals’ lives will be saved. Our message is simple - if in doubt, don’t go out.”
The Scottish SPCA advises anyone who is going to break a dog from a hot car to inform them and Police Scotland first and should always be a last resort as they could be charged with criminal damage. They advise taking the names and numbers of any witnesses and to take photos and videos of the dog.
Anyone with concerns about the welfare of an animal should contact the Scottish SPCA’s animal helpline on 03000 999 999.