Animal Protection Weather Guidelines

Signs of distress - animals in hot vehicles

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How to know whether pets left in vehicles on a hot day are actually in danger



Edmonton, Alberta, July 11, 2012 – A successful education campaign launched recently involving vehicle stickers that warn about the dangers of leaving pets in vehicles has led to an increase in the number of people calling for help when they find an animal left alone in a vehicle on a hot day. 


While the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS) depends on the public to be their eyes and ears to alert its animal protection officers about any case involving an animal in distress, the Society feels that it is necessary to further educate the public about when and who to call for help when a pet is spotted alone in a vehicle on a hot day.


“We are being told by the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Services Department that there has been an increase in the number of people calling 911, basically panicking when they spot an animal alone in a vehicle, says EHS spokesperson Shawna Randolph.  “We strongly urge people to be well aware of the true signs of an animal in distress.”


The following chart is a guideline to help the public recognize the signs of distress with animals left in a hot environment, the different levels of danger, and how to react:



Suggested Action

3- Low level / No distress

·  Panting at normal speed

·  Tongue appears a normal pink

·  Dog is bright/alert/responsive

·  Dog barking (not frantically),    

may even show signs of  aggression

·  If near a store, request that    owners be paged to vehicle.

·  Leave EHS Dog in Car notice and sticker on windshield.

·  Monitor for further signs of distress.

2- Medium level / Early signs of imminent distress

·  Panting quickly

·  May be drooling (slightly)

·  Tongue appears a darker pink

·  Dog is bright/responsive but may begin to be less alert, dog may begin laying on floor of vehicle

·  Dog may be trying to get fresh air through cracks in window

·  Eyes beginning to look glazed

·   If near a store, have owners paged to their vehicle.

·   Leave EHS Dog in Car notice and sticker on windshield.

·   Call EHS Animal Protection at (780) 491-3517 if owners do not return to their vehicle within safe timeframe.

·   If officers do not answer, leave detailed message including vehicle description, license plate, location of vehicle, and signs of distress. 

1-High level / Imminent distress

·  Panting excessively (heavily and loud)

·  Excessive drooling (thick saliva)

·  Tongue appears dark pink/purple

·  Dog may have loss of bowels, bloody diarrhea may occur

·  Dog appears lethargic/non responsive or may be frantically trying to escape vehicle

·  Dog may be unsteady, staggering

·  Eyes have glazed over appearance 

·   During regular business hours contact EHS Animal Protection at (780) 491-3517. 

·   If you do not receive a call back within 15 minutes, or for after hours assistance, call the Edmonton Police Service at (780) 423-4567.

·   While waiting for emergency responders to arrive; If near a store, have owners paged to their vehicle.

·   Leave EHS Dog in Car notice and sticker on windshield.

“We know that people mean well when they instantly react to a pet left alone in a vehicle, but we hope that they just take a few quick moments to properly assess the situation before simply calling 911,” adds Randolph.


The Edmonton Humane Society also reminds all motorists to either keep their pets safely at home, (with adequate shade and water), or if it is necessary to travel with an animal, only visit pet friendly establishments or take along an adult passenger so the driver has someone to safely stay with the pet and the vehicle.


The public can download and print off a notice from the Edmonton Humane Society’s website to leave on vehicles, to help educate others who may be endangering their pet (here).