As dog walking, doggy daycare and the like continues to grow as an industry, it’s perhaps no surprise that there are more vehicles than ever transporting dogs across the country. It’s well documented that dog owners shouldn’t leave their dog in a car during hot temperatures: however, the RSCPA still have to break windows on numerous cars during the summer months of owners ignoring this advice, as their dogs are trapped in what is essentially a greenhouse in direct sunlight once air conditioning is turned off and ventilation is removed. However, treatment of dogs in vans during similar temperatures gets less attention – but certainly shouldn’t.
A van can become an oven extremely quickly, even when it might not feel that warm. Left without ventilation, the heat can rise dramatically in a van and cause a dog to suffer heatstroke – a highly dangerous condition that can even prove fatal – in just ten minutes. To put this in perspective: a healthy dog’s normal body temperature is around 39°C – brain damage can develop at just 41°C, meaning that the range for overheating is very small, without it becoming extremely dangerous. What does all this mean? That ventilation is vitally important for vans transporting dogs, for their safety.
The excess heat in vans during warmer months needs to be removed to keep the dog(s) healthy. Positive ventilation will do this, by bringing in fresh, cool air from outside the vehicle – as well as removing odours from the dogs too (a nice side benefit!). There’s a lot of ventilation options available, but van owners transporting dogs should ensure to get one which works just as well when the van is stationary, as it does on the move – so the van owner can leave the dogs knowing that they will remain cool. When getting your vent fitted, it’s important to discuss your needs with the company fitting them – so that they can advise you on the most suitable for your needs. A good vent is – perhaps surprisingly to many – more effective than a window at bringing in cool air.
If you have dogs in the front of your van too, it’s inadvisable to leave them there without the window open or air conditioning on for more than 1-2 minutes, as otherwise heatstroke becomes a risk. Even for just these couple of minutes, there’s protocol that should be followed:
- Leave the windows open at least 2x the width of your hand
- Stick sunshades on to the window, and ideally windshield: by doing this you are covering the largest source of radiant heat in your van
- Use a remote thermometer: These thermometers sit inside the car and measure heat and humidity. You can check the results on your phone and set up alerts if it rises above a certain level.
The above might seem unnecessary, but it’s really just the minimum that should be done. It’s worth testing the set up yourself, too – to understand if implementing what you feel is enough to keep the dogs happy really is. You can do this through a simple test:
- Take your van to a coffee shop and park it outside for an hour or two and check on it every 15 minutes. Do this in the shade and in the sun. Test it again in humidity, and any other weather conditions you may be concerned of. Over time you’ll be able to confidently approximate how long – and in what weather – you can leave the van unattended.
Now that you know what to do with your own van, it’s also important to know what to do when you see a dog in distress inside another car or van:
- If you decide to break a window to release the dog you could be charged with criminal damage – and have to explain you acted with proper justification in court. As such, it’s important to tell police what you intend to do and why, prior to doing so: take pictures or videos of the dog and details of witnesses