During warm weather, even dogs who are left in the shade can quickly succumb to heatstroke and suffer brain damage as a result. On a 26-degree day, the temperature inside a shaded car is 32 degrees, and the inside of a vehicle parked in the sun can reach 70 degrees in just minutes.
If you see a dog in a car and in distress, take down the car's colour, model, make and registration number, try to locate the owner if possible and call local animal authorities or police. Have someone keep an eye on the dog. If police are unresponsive or too slow and the dog's life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back your assessment, take steps to remove the suffering animal and then wait for authorities to arrive. A dog showing any symptoms of heatstroke – such as restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy or lack of coordination – should be taken into the shade immediately. Stabilise the dog's temperature by providing water, applying a cold towel to the animal's head and chest or immersing the dog in tepid (not ice-cold) water. Then the animal should be transported to a veterinarian.
PETA makes the following suggestions for safeguarding animals:
• Keep dogs inside. Unlike humans, dogs can only sweat through their footpads and cool themselves by panting. Soaring temperatures can cause heat stress and be physically damaging or fatal.
• Provide water and shade. If animals must be left outside, they should be supplied with ample water and shade, and the shifting sun needs to be taken into account. Even brief periods of direct exposure to the sun can have life-threatening consequences.
• Walk, don't run. In very hot, humid weather, never exercise dogs by cycling while they try to keep up or by running them while you jog. Dogs will collapse before giving up, at which point it may be too late to save them.
• Never leave an animal in a parked car in warm weather, even for short periods with the windows slightly open. Dogs trapped inside parked cars can succumb to heatstroke within minutes – even if a car isn't parked in direct sunlight.
• Stay alert and save a life. If you see an animal in distress, immediately provide water and shelter and contact authorities right away.