Finally, skies are blue and the gloom is gone. With the warm temperatures comes the hazard of leaving the family dog in the car unattended. Many dogs will get sick, and some will die this summer from heatstroke or hyperthermia after being left in the car by their well-meaning but misinformed owners. Indeed, an average of 37 children die every year from being left in an overheated vehicle, so it’s obviously difficult to convince people to take precautions to avoid a tragedy.

It doesn’t take long in the summer sun for a car to turn into an oven. With an outside temperature of 80 degrees, it takes only 20 minutes (even with the windows open) for a car to heat to 109 degrees. In another 20 minutes, 118 degrees, and after an hour, 123 degrees!

The best protection is, of course, to leave dogs at home and take the kids when you leave the vehicle. If you must leave your dog in the car, please:

Park in the shade.

Use a cardboard or aluminum screen to block the sun from coming in the windshield.

Open the windows and sunroof wide enough to allow ventilation, but not enough so the animal may jump out.

—n Leave a dish of water on the floor.

As a last resort, leave the car running and locked with the air conditioning on. (This is NOT foolproof.)

Check on the animal every 15 minutes.

Learn to recognize the signs of heatstroke in your dog. Excessive thirst, heavy panting, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting and lack of coordination are all symptoms that your dog may be dying. Apply ice packs or a cold towel to the head, neck or chest area. Get the animal into the shade or air conditioning right away and call your vet.

Finally, if you suspect a dog may be in distress from the heat, try to locate the car’s owner by having them paged, or notify the police. Stay with the situation and do what you can to help in the meantime. Let’s work together to make this summer a safe one for everyone.

Don Kimball

South Portland