Black-Lab I’ll never forget the first time I had to take care of a dog for an extended period of time. My younger brother suffered from bad allergies, so we never had one growing up, and thus I never had the chance to learn about proper pet care. Sure I’d read a few Web sites and had received some tips from friends, but there’s no substitute for real experience. I’ve never been more nervous than I was on that first walk, especially after realizing that my new buddy Porter liked to growl and bark at every other dog he saw on the street. Apparently he liked to assert his dominance.

It was a long month, but by the end of it I was sad to give Porter back to his owners. After taking the time to read up on proper pet care and soliciting even more advice and tips from my dog-loving friends, I was finally starting to feel comfortable and truly enjoy spending time with the big guy. Since then I’ve pet-sat many times for a variety of different dogs, cats, fish and what have you. But I’ve never forgotten some of the important tips I learned that first month – especially in regards to keeping your pet safe from the hot summer sun.

Below are some of the most important tips I learned about proper summer pet care, all of which I still follow today.

  • Keep them hydrated. Just as water is important for you and me in the hot summer sun, it’s also vital for your pets. Make sure they have access to fresh water – both inside and out. Keeping them hydrated will not only help to cool them down, it can also help to prevent heat-related problems, including heat exhaustion and even the more serious heat stroke.
  • Take frequent, shorter walks. Rather than one long walk every day, take your pet on several shorter walks on hot days. This allows them to still get the proper exercise they need while also making sure they don’t overheat in the sun. Overexertion is one of the biggest causes f heat-related illnesses in pets. Shorter, more frequent walks will help prevent this, and can also help to keep you fresh as well. If possible, try to time your walks for early morning or evening hours when the sun is less intense.
  • Don’t leave your pet in the car. We’ve all been tempted to take our dogs along with us on an errand or two, but you should never leave your pet alone in the car on a hot summer day. Even with the windows down, the inside of your car can reach a scorching 120 degrees. You wouldn’t leave your pet in the oven – at least not while it’s on – so don’t leave them in your car.
  • Watch for heat-related issues. Just like you, your pet can suffer from both heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Keep an eye out for the different symptoms of exhaustion and heat stroke so you can be ready in case of an emergency. The most common signs include panting, staring, anxiety, rapid pulse, vomiting and collapsing. If you think your pet might be suffering from a serious heat-related illness, contact a veterinarian immediately. You should also attempt to lower your pet’s body temperature by applying cool – but not cold – towels to the chest and neck area.
  • Be aware in crowded areas. While it might seem fun and harmless at first, it is usually not a good idea to take your pet with you to a crowded summer party or event. This can include concerts, Fourth of July parties and fireworks shows. Loud noises and stress associated with the large crowds can be dangerous for your pets when combined with the summer heat. If you do take your pets with you, keep an eye on them and make sure they are tagged and leashed at all times.

Mike Tennant is a freelance writer, columnist and dog lover from Orange County. Mike currently works with Air Conditioner Home as a content developer to help consumers make the right decision when looking for the best portable air conditioner.