How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Car when Travelling

05th Jul 2024

Written in partnership with Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

Advice from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

Because dogs and pets are important car passengers too, we have partnered up with Battersea to give drivers the very best advice for transporting them and driving with them.

Now, as a driver, you’ll know all about the importance of keeping your cool when you are in traffic and during certain situations. But you’re not the only one - keeping your dog cool is vital too, especially when travelling in hot weather. The key to doing this is all about planning ahead and being prepared.

The aim is to keep your dog healthy, happy and hydrated, and reduce the risk of your dog suffering from heatstroke. To help you stay on top of things whilst travelling, we have put our heads together with Battersea to bring you our top summer dog care tips.

Plan stops on your journey

White dog in car's boot and cage

Make sure you take a route that has enough places to stop so not only can the humans take a break, but dogs can stretch their legs, go to the toilet, rehydrate and have a cooling treat.

We would recommend setting off earlier in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler and there is less traffic.

Keep the car cool

If possible, put the air conditioning on before you travel to allow the car to cool down before your dog gets in. Make sure you have the windows open for ventilation and use sunshades on the windows, so your dog is not in direct sunlight.

You should also make sure your dog has access to water during the journey, and splash-proof travel bowls are available to buy. The amount of time it takes for a dog to overheat in a car is much shorter than many people think, especially if your dog is long-haired or has a short snout.

Many of these dogs have difficulty breathing, and these problems are exacerbated in hot weather, even above 20°C.

Take care on hot surfaces

Muddy dog holding its paw up

Lots of surfaces heat up in the sun, such as leather car seats or the tarmac in a car park, and this can be painful for your dog’s paws. If in doubt, check for yourself using the palm of your hand.

If it feels too hot for you to touch, the chances are your dog feels the same. Use a towel or a dog bed in your car to ensure your dog is not sitting directly on a hot seat whilst travelling.

Make the car safe

Make sure your dog is safely secured, so they don’t pose any risks or try to get out through any open car windows.

The Highway Code states dogs must be suitably restrained when travelling in a car, so they cannot distract the driver or cause injury to either themselves or the motorist. To make sure your dog is secured and safe, use a car harness on the backseat, a travel crate, or a dog guard in the boot.

Do not let your dog travel with their head out of the window, either, as other cars and flying debris such as dirt and stones can cause serious injury.

Never leave your dog alone in the car

Cars can get very warm, very quickly, and this can be deadly for your dog. Even if your car is parked in the shade with the windows open, dogs can become distressed and uncomfortable and develop heat stroke very quickly.

Make sure you always have a plan so that your dog is not left alone in the car or any other enclosed spaces. If you see a dog in a hot car, dial 999.

Pack well

Couple going for a drive with their dog sitting in the back of the car

Always pack for all eventualities – and any spares – just in case. Things like, a blanket or bed that is familiar to your dog, enough food to last the whole trip, their favourite toys, plus any medication they might need. Long-lasting chews and treats are also a good idea as a distraction.

Look out for heatstroke

When your dog gets too hot and can’t reduce their body temperature, they are at risk of developing heatstroke, which can be fatal. The signs to look out for include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • A rapid pulse
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lack of coordination, or confusion
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Loss of consciousness

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, you need to act fast. Immediately take them to a cool, shaded area and ring your nearest vet’s clinic. Once in the shade, lay them down on a towel soaked in cold water and let them drink small amounts of cool water.

Never place them directly into ice-cold water or give them too much to drink as they may go into shock. Try to keep cooling them down while you take them to the vets.

At the destination

Family going for a walk with their dog in the countryside

Take regular water breaks

Water is essential all year round, but especially on a hot day. When you're out with your dog, make sure you always have a bottle of water and a bowl for them to drink from. A towel that you can quickly soak in cold water also makes for a good DIY cooling mat for them to lie on.

Take walks or have playtime in cooler parts of the day

If you are taking your dog for a walk in the summer, take lots of breaks and time in the shade and away from direct sunlight. This is easier to do during cooler parts of the day, early in the morning or later in the evening, and we would strongly recommend not taking your dog out between the hours of 12pm and 3pm as this is when the sun is hottest.

Know the rules for dogs in any new area

You should be careful to follow all the rules around dogs in any new place or area you travel to. They are there for everyone’s safety, including you and your dog.

If you are not sure, do your research and try to find out. It’s also a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped, so before you travel, make sure your details are up-to-date.

Advice from the experts

During warm weather, it is especially important to help your dog maintain a healthy weight and stay as fit and healthy as possible. Regular grooming and/or clipping will keep your dog's coat clean and free of knots, and in some cases, can help them to stay cool.

Wherever you are heading, we wish you, and your pet, a very safe and very cool car journey ahead. For more guidance from the experts, please head over to the lifestyle section.