The Greenhouse Effect: Dogs In Cars

Apr 5, 2021

The Greenhouse Effect: Dogs In Cars

The greenhouse effect creates unsafe temperatures in your car when temperatures begin to rise. This can be challenging because most dogs love a good car ride! Part of the joy in pet ownership is taking your furry adventure companion with you wherever you go. Going to the store? Bring the dog! Driving to run an errand? Take your pet!

Car trips with your dog are usually a win-win. Most dogs love a road trip and it is fun to bring your dog with you as frequently as possible. As the temperatures begin to rise during the summer months, it is imperative to consider the internal temperature of a motor vehicle when bringing Fido along in car trips. 

On average, hundreds of pets die every year from being left in cars. The internal temperature of a car parked in direct sunlight rises approximately 20 degrees on a 70-degree day in just 10 minutes! In less than one hour, the internal temperature of a car can easily rise to levels extremely harmful to a pet’s health and wellbeing. The greenhouse effect happens in vehicles parked outside in either direct or indirect sunlight contact. The greenhouse effect occurs when sunlight warms atmospheric gasses enclosed by the windows of a motor vehicle.

Whether or not the windows of a parked car are up or rolled down a few inches, the internal temperature of a parked car rises dramatically in a short period of time. Most individuals do not intend to cause harm to their beloved pet by leaving it in a parked car. People typically have the original intention of “it will just be one second, I am running into the store for one quick thing.” The unintended “quick trips” to run a brief errand are typically the culprits of scenarios where pets are left in vehicles for an excessive period of time resulting in serious injury or death.

As of 2021, approximately 30 states have laws prohibiting the abandonment of pets unattended in a vehicle. The various state laws highlight conditions in which it is unsafe to leave pets alone in a vehicle when there exists the risk of car temperatures running too high or too low. Penalties for violating these laws range from fines, tickets to jail time, and the confiscation of pets. 

The most vulnerable living creatures highlighted on the topic of extreme temperatures and unattended vehicles include: children, senior citizens, and pets. If a pet, specifically a dog, is left in a car too long in the heat, the dog is susceptible to damage to its circulatory system or internal organs. Overheating in a dog can potentially lead to heatstroke or death.

Signs of overheating in a dog include:

  • Drooling
  • Excessive Panting
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Weakness
  • Stupor
  • Seizures
  • Collapse 

If you absolutely must leave your dog unattended in a vehicle for a period of time, there are a few tips and precautions you can take to help keep your pet safe. 

  1. Only consider leaving your dog in an unattended car when certain the weather and temperature conditions are safe to do so.
  2. Park in the shade.
  3. Employ a sunshield on your windshield to block as much sunlight as possible.
  4. Leave your dog with fresh water.
  5. Set an alarm on your phone to insure you are not leaving your dog unattended for longer than intended. 
  6. Install and use a thermometer inside your vehicle to verify that internal car temperatures do not reach unsafe levels.
  7. Use remote start on your vehicle with the car air conditioning preset to help regulate the internal car temperature. 

Bottom Line: It is unsafe to leave your dog unattended in a car, windows up or down, shade or no shade during warm summer months or cold winter times. Parking underneath a tree or off in the shade helps to slow the warming greenhouse effect on the interior of a vehicle, however temperatures will still rise to an unhealthy level. Do not leave your pet, child, or senior citizen alone, unattended in a vehicle. In most states, leaving a pet alone in a car is unlawful and most importantly, it is not safe. 



Works cited:,%C2%B0F%20in%20the%20shade.