Summer heat poses hazards to everyone. But while people can take measures to mitigate those hazards, pets cannot.

Accordingly, pet owners can take measures to ensure their pets’ safety during the summer. First and foremost according to is never, ever to leave one’s pets inside a car.

One might suppose that leaving the vehicle’s window open or parking in the shade might keep the interior cool. But according to, “[b]lame the greenhouse effect.” That is: the same effect that keeps greenhouses warm in winter also heats up vehicle interiors. Windows only warm a little, but the darker colored objects that the sun’s rays strike (like the dashboard, steering wheel, and seats) are heated immensely due to the fact that darker colors absorb the light and convert it to heat, which then radiates into the surrounding air by convection and conduction. (That’s also why steering wheels and leather or plastic seats can become too hot to touch.)

Nor is cracking the vehicle’s windows of any appreciable help. According to a San Jose University study, temperatures inside a car with its windows cracked down rise at a rate of 3.1 degrees every five minutes, compared to as much as 4 degrees for closed windows. Thus, a car with its windows cracked can see interior temperatures rise approximately 37 degrees within an hour. So if the exterior temperature is already 90 degrees, within an hour the inside of the car can reach 127 degrees (138 degrees for a closed vehicle), and 164 degrees in two.

But heat inside a vehicle is not the only threat pets face in the summer. Water is an ongoing need for both humans and animals, and hotter weather naturally drives greater consumption. Also, water warms up quickly, so changing the pet’s water becomes a necessity.

And while water is an obvious need, some items consumable by humans can be very poisonous to pets. Within the context of cookouts, barbecues and other outdoor gatherings, foods like raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, and products with the sweetener xylitol are to be avoided.

One should also avoid walking one’s pets in the vicinity of fireworks, because the noise can frighten them. And even among those dogs who aren’t gun-shy, the accidental (or deliberate) discharge of fireworks in too close proximity to a pet can cause injury. Similarly, one should bring pets inside if there is the possibility of a thunderstorm. Loud thunder may frighten them, or lightning could strike them.

Owners should not allow dogs to hang out of the window of a moving car, as objects like rocks or tree limbs could seriously injure the pet, or he/she might fall or jump out. Similarly, owners should not allow pets to ride in the back of a pick-up truck. as they could be thrown out, or may jump out.

And believe it or not, pets can get sunburned. White dogs, hairless dogs, and dogs with light colored fur, are more susceptible. Anyone owning a pet that meets this criterion should apply sunscreen to the pet before letting it outside for an extended period of time.

Other tips to avoid or mitigate heat hazards include keeping a dog’s paws cool at all times. Doing so can involve limiting the time the dog roams in the backyard and outdoors, especially on hot asphalt, due to the sun’s rays being absorbed and converted into heat. The dog’s body heat can rapidly rise, and sensitive paw pads can get burned.

Just like humans, animals can suffer from heat stress. So it’s best to be aware of the signs of heat stress. An animal showing signs of heat stress could exhibit heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, and/or unconsciousness.

Should the pet exhibit heat stress, the owner should:

Move the pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area

Apply ice packs or cold towels to the animal’s head, neck and chest or immerse him in cool (not cold) water.

Let the pet drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.

Take the pet directly to a veterinarian.

Not all hazards of summer are weather-related. Pets who go outside also face threats from insects as well. Heartworms more commonly occurs in dogs, but can also affect cats. Heartworm disease is more common in warmer weather. It is easily transmitted through insect bites and/or contact with another infected animal, and inhibits proper pumping and functioning of the heart muscle. If not treated, it may cause heart failure if not treated.

Fleas and ticks are also threats, as they can cause anemia, carry other harmful parasites, and carry other diseases such as Lyme Disease. It is important to apply flea and tick prevention products to the pet monthly or as indicated on the specific product label of the product that is used. There are several options available for flea and tick prevention, and owners should ask a veterinarian which product addresses the specific needs of the pet given its particular environment.

In addition, pets that like to relax in the shade of a yard or deck, are at risk from yellow jackets, bees, toads, and snakes. Symptoms of a bite or sting usually include swelling of the face or affected areas. Once stung or bitten, the pet’s skin may start to look wrinkly or bumpy. This is a first indicator and, if the pet is not treated by a veterinarian, it may die due to toxins taking over and shutting down the animal’s body or causing air way swelling and suffocation.

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