Cars and Dogs: Getting Hit Isn’t the Only Danger

When you think of cars and dogs, the first danger that comes to mind is collision. Clearly this is an all-too-common occurrence that can lead to severe or fatal injuries. But collisions are by no means the only risk to your pet. Here are other car-related dangers that you may not know about.


Dogs that chase cars are attracted to the movement. Unfortunately, this reckless behavior is often the precursor to being hit by other vehicles whose drivers didn’t expect an animal in the road. Dogs that leap, dart or jump out at cars can cause accidents as well-meaning drivers swerve to miss them. Even a dog on a leash can hurt itself or its owner if it lunges at passing cars. Training is needed to correct this problem and ensure the dog’s safety.

Hot and Cold Cars

Every year, animal control officers receive a high volume of calls regarding dogs left in hot cars. Even during moderately sunny weather, the interior of a parked car can soar to over 100 degrees in only a few minutes. On hotter days, the temperature may top 160. It doesn’t take long in heat like that for dogs to suffer heat stroke, brain damage or even death.

Winter poses similar threats. Leaving dogs alone in cold cars makes them prime targets for hypothermia. Trying to keep a dog warm by leaving the engine running and the heater on may cause carbon monoxide to build up inside the vehicle, causing a potentially fatal situation.

Unrestrained Riding

The sight of a car whizzing by with a dog hanging its head out the window could be an unfortunate sign of trouble to come. Dogs that ride in cars without a crate or harness can distract drivers by climbing into laps, getting underfoot or even just by being anxious. Riding in the front seat puts them at risk for harm from the airbag should it deploy. Should the dog become overly excited, it’s possible that it will try to escape through an open window even if the car is moving. In the event of an accident, unrestrained dogs become airborne and can cause impacts equal to hundreds or even thousands of pounds. These dangers make it smart to invest in some kind of safety system if you drive with your dog.

Car Fluids

Even when a car is parked safely in the garage, your dog may be at risk from leaking fluids. Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste that attracts pets but contains poisonous ethylene glycol which can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and brain. The same chemical shows up in brake fluid. Petroleum-based liquids such as gasoline and motor oil can cause a condition called petroleum hydrocarbon toxicosis. If your dog ingests these, don’t encourage vomiting. Instead, call the vet and get your pet there as quickly as possible.