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Summer Pet Safety Tips

Furry and feathery creatures have a tougher time beating the heat. "Dogs and cats don't have a lot of sweat glands, so they pant to cool off," says Elisa Mazzaferro, D.V.M., a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association. Birds have to breathe harder, too. How to make sure your animal pals don't get, er, hot under the collar:

Play it cool. Pull down shades to block the sun and set your AC to about 70°F. If you have a bird, keep his cage out of the chilly airflow.

Watch the windows. Make sure they stay shut if they're screenless -- and turn off ceiling fans -- if you plan to spring Tweety for some exercise. Check screens for tears, too; delicate feathers can get caught.

Clean the cage. Bird bedding can harbor germs and mold that grow extra quickly in warm weather, so change it every day.

Be fresh-obsessed. Pet food also goes bad faster in the heat, so clean the chow and water bowls daily, too.

Keep off the grass right after your lawn's been treated with fertilizer or pesticides, which may be toxic. Shut windows as well, since fumes can waft inside.

Open the basement door so cats and dogs can find cool refuge. (Just be sure to carefully pet-proof down there first.)

Be cautious on car trips. Never leave pets in the car, even in the shade or with the windows cracked, because the temperature can soar to 120°F in minutes. And don't let Fido ride in the back of a truck-he could fall out or get hit by debris.

Don't assume your dog swims. Many do -- but not all. "Pugs sink like stones," says Mazzaferro. Keep a close eye on your pooch anytime you're by a lake, pond, or other unfenced body of water.

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