Cute, small dog standing in the backseat of a car while wearing a harness and seatbelt

Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch

  • Prescriptions delivered free to you

  • Fast access to Licensed Vets over video

  • Unlimited video visits and follow-ups

Despite the occasional viral videos or photos showcasing pet parents leaving notes about the air conditioning or heat being on while their dog is in the car, leaving your dog alone in a car is generally never safe. While the intentions behind these actions may be to ensure the pet's comfort and prevent anyone from breaking into the car to rescue the pet, the reality is that a vehicle can become a dangerous environment for a dog, even under seemingly controlled conditions. 

Dogs are highly susceptible to temperature fluctuations, and the interior of a car can quickly become too hot or too cold, depending on the external weather conditions. The risks of heat stroke or hypothermia increase exponentially. Even with the best intentions, the environment inside a car can be life-threatening for a dog. 

If you're asking yourself, "Can I leave my dog in the car?" you've come to the right place. Keep reading to learn more about the potential dangers of leaving your dog alone in the car. 

Risks of leaving your dog in the car

Risks of Leaving Pets in The Car

Leaving your dog unattended in a car poses various risks to their well-being. While weather conditions are a serious threat, there are also other dangers of leaving pets in the car while you run quick errands. These include: 

Cold Cars

As a general rule of winter safety, leaving your dog in the cold for more than a few minutes is never a good idea, especially if they're a small breed with a short coat. If you're wondering, "Can I leave my dog in the car at night?" you must consider the temperature. 

During the colder months, temperatures drastically drop at night, and leaving your dog alone in the car may put them at risk for hypothermia. Small, short-coated animals are particularly susceptible even when left alone for just a few minutes. The heat dissipates from your car quickly once it's turned off, and it's never safe to leave your dog inside a car alone during below-freezing temperatures.1

Hot Cars 

If you're running errands and can't take your dog inside the store, you might wonder, "How long can I leave my dog in the car?" Ultimately, you should never leave your dog alone in the car, but we understand that sometimes you might consider it. Unfortunately, leaving your dog alone in the car for more than a few minutes can be dangerous. 

While some might believe cracking a window can mitigate the danger, research suggests otherwise. In just 30 minutes, 80% of the temperature increases inside a car, making it a life-threatening environment for dogs.2 Heatstroke is a potentially fatal heat safety issue that becomes a serious concern when dogs are left in the car on hot days.  

Hyperthermia, the increase in internal temperature, can cause severe injury to a pet's tissues. Recognizing the symptoms of heat stroke is crucial, including panting, drooling, agitation, changes in gum color, breathing distress, vomiting, mental confusion, weakness, and collapse.2

Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be incredibly hot outside for your dog to get heat stroke inside a car.3 Even on seemingly mild days, the interior of a parked car can transform into a dangerously hot environment. The car traps the sun's heat, turning it into an oven.


Unattended cars are vulnerable to theft. It's possible that someone looking to steal your car won't even know if your dog is inside when they enter it and drive away. On the other hand, pets are also more vulnerable to theft when left alone in parked cars. Believe it or not, people steal pets for many different reasons. 

Small dog pawing at window while alone in a car


While rare, cars aren't immune to fire. A car igniting into flames means your pet is potentially stuck inside, and if you're not around, there's no one there to save them. This adds another layer of danger to an already risky practice of leaving pets in cars.1 

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Running a car in an enclosed space, like a garage, can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning for the pets inside. This can occur within minutes and reduces the oxygen supply to the pet's brain, posing a serious and potentially fatal risk. If you must leave your dog in a car for any amount of time, make sure your garage is fully open to allow the carbon monoxide to escape. 


Unrestrained pets can get hurt in cars. They can shift the gears accidentally or get stuck in windows or sunroofs. Even if a pet manages to escape, they're at an increased risk of being lost, stolen, or injured. 

Additionally, your dog may experience separation anxiety, leading to destructive behaviors. They may eat things off the floor that they normally wouldn't consume, potentially causing them harm when you're not around to help them. 

Moreover, pets may be more susceptible to heat-related conditions like heat rash, which can occur when they're in a confined, warm space like a car. While not as dangerous as heatstroke, leaving your pet alone in a car is another complication and possible danger. 

Separation anxiety

Again, some pets suffer from separation anxiety. This can worsen in public when left in a small, enclosed area like a car. The anxiety can result in destructive behavior, including attempts to escape the car, which can cause them to hurt themselves or damage the vehicle. 

State Regulations Prohibiting Leaving Pets in Unattended Cars

In response to the recognized dangers of leaving pets unattended in vehicles, several states in the U.S. have implemented specific laws addressing the issue. Currently, 31 states have enacted legislation making it a criminal offense to leave an animal in a vehicle under dangerous conditions.4  The penalties for violating these laws vary depending on the state. 

These legal measures emphasize the importance of protecting animals from the potential harm associated with being left alone in cars. Individuals can still face criminal charges under existing animal abuse and cruelty laws—even in states without explicit policies addressing this concern.5 

Some states prohibit leaving dogs in unattended vehicles and empower specific individuals to rescue animals under hazardous conditions. These rescuers may include law enforcement, firefighters, animal control officers, first responders, or authorized humane officers. 

States with laws protecting dogs in unattended cars

Additionally, in several states, Good Samaritan or good faith laws allow anyone to rescue animals suffering from life-threatening conditions in parked cars.5 Bystanders have the legal right to "rescue" your dog from conditions they deem potentially dangerous, which means breaking your window and taking your dog away from the vehicle. 

Every state's laws are different. For instance, if you're wondering, "Can I leave my dog in the car in California?" You'll be surprised to know that California criminalizes leaving an animal in an unattended car if it endangers the health or well-being of that animal. The law identifies conditions like extreme heat or cold, lack of ventilation, and the absence of food and water as conditions that may pose a risk. This law also protects all animals, not just dogs and cats.5

Husky dog sticking head out of a window in a locked car


How long can you leave a dog in the car?

Leaving a dog in a car for any amount of time isn't recommended, and the duration a dog can safely be left in a vehicle depends on various factors, such as the outside temperature, the dog's breed, age, and overall health. As a rule of thumb, it's best to avoid leaving a dog in a car unattended, especially in extreme temperatures. 

Can I leave my dog in the car if I leave it running?

You might think leaving your dog in a running car with air conditioning or heat mitigates all the risks. Unfortunately, weather conditions are just one risk and reason to avoid leaving your dog alone in the car. 

While running the vehicle with the air conditioning or heating on can help regulate the internal temperature, there are other various dangers and potential problems, including: 

  • Theft
  • Injury
  • Accidents
  • Safety hazards

Is it better to leave my dog outside a store or in the car?

Neither leaving your dog outside a store nor in the car is an ideal solution, as both scenarios present risks to your pet's safety or well-being. Extreme temperatures are dangerous whether your dog is outside a shop or inside a car. Injury, theft, and accident are also possible in both scenarios. 

Final Notes 

So, can you leave your dog in the car? Leaving your dog unattended in a vehicle poses serious risks to their safety and well-being. Extreme temperatures, the potential for theft, fire hazards, and the threat of accidents are all compelling reasons to avoid leaving your dog alone in public, especially in a locked car. Additionally, state regulations across the U.S. make it illegal to do so, even if you believe your pet is perfectly safe. 

As an alternative to leaving pets alone in risky situations, pet parents can explore convenient and reliable solutions like Dutch telemedicine. Dutch allows pet parents to access veterinary care from the comfort of their homes, providing them with the support they need to help their anxious or destructive dogs thrive. Try Dutch today. 



  1. The Dangers of Leaving a Pet in a Car,

  2. "The Dangers of Leaving Dogs in Cars." Humane Society of North Texas, 12 Jan. 2021,

  3. Burke, Anna. "Dogs in Hot Cars: Can I Leave My Dog in the Car If I Crack a Window?" American Kennel Club, 9 Nov. 2023,

  4. Shouse, Neil. "Is It Illegal to Leave a Dog Unattended in the Car?" Shouse Law Group, 9 June 2023,

  5. Kaminskileduc, Janet. State Laws Prohibiting Leaving Animals in Unattended Vehicles,

Memberships to keep your pet healthier

billed $132 yearly
20% off of all memberships
billed monthly

All memberships include:

  • Fast access to licensed vets
  • Virtual care for up to 5 pets
  • Customized Rx treatment plans
  • Unlimited video calls & follow-ups
  • Guaranteed low prices on medication
  • Free shipping on every order

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $11/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.