According to the Victoria SPCA, if you see a dog in a car on a warm or humid day who you believe may be in trouble there are a few proactive steps that you can take immediately that may prevent an emergency. These can include attempts to find the animal owner by asking nearby stores to page the licence plate of the vehicle, placing towels on the windows to provide some immediate shade, cooling fans or providing water if the windows are lowered.

If the dog is in distress call the Animal Cruelty Hotline at 1 (855) 6BC SPCA (1-855-622-7722 FREE). The call centre is open seven days per week: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

If it is an animal emergency outside of these hours or if a BC SPCA constable is not available, you may contact CRD animal control or police if none of these agencies are available.

“If you travel with your dog this summer, remember to bring fresh water and a bowl. Panting and drinking water helps cool them,” states Don Brown, senior bylaw officer of CRD Animal Control.

West Shore RCMP have responded to 90 complaints of dogs left in vehicles between 2012 and 2014. Many of those calls were from concerned citizen reporting that the dog is panting and believe it to be in distress. Here is a list of symptoms that may indicate a dog is in actual distress:

  • Exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting);
  • rapid or erratic pulse;
  • salivation;
  • anxious or staring expression;
  • weakness and muscle tremors;
  • lack of coordination;
  • tongue and lips red (which may eventually turn bluish in colour);
  • convulsions or vomiting;
  • collapse, coma and death.

“If the dog is up and moving around in the car, we urge people to take some proactive steps to try to determine the location of the owner as this may be the fastest way of getting the dog some relief,” states Marcie Moriarty, Chief Prevention and Enforcement Officer of BC SPCA. “However, tragedy can occur in less than 10 minutes so if the animal is exhibiting signs of distress and an owner cannot be located, the authorities need to be called in.”

Emergency treatment for dogs

If your dog shows symptoms of heatstroke follow these instructions:

  • Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place.
  • Wet the dog with cool water.
  • Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This process will cool the blood, which reduces the dog’s core temperature.
  • Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow which will inhibit cooling.
  • Allow the dog to drink some cool water.
  • Take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment.

Veterinarians may apply supportive measures such as intravenous fluids to rehydrate the animal and oxygen to prevent brain damage.

The BC SPCA is a non-profit organization and only has one constable on duty at any given time in the greater Victoria area, so the best way to ensure dogs are not in distress from a hot car is to NOT leave your dog in your vehicle when the temperature starts to rise.

For more information, please visit:

No animal were harmed during the photo for this article. Thanks to Kali for being a great model!


Press Release: West Shore RCMP

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