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Today's topic: Pet tips

It's summertime, and as the livin' gets easier, more of us are taking to the road for vacations, short trips or just a ride to the store, often taking Fido or Fluffy along. That could be the death sentence for our loving companions.

If you plan to stop anywhere, take your pets inside with you, if possible. If it's not possible, don't take them with you at all.

On an average summer day, the temperature inside a closed car parked in the sun can reach 160 degrees in a matter of minutes. You know how hot the steering wheel is when you come back. Imagine a pet that is left to bake in that atmosphere, frantically trying to find relief or get out.

Nine out of 10 pets will die of heat prostration within 20 minutes, even with the car windows partly open. Unlike humans, pets can't perspire through their skin. Their only cooling system are their lungs, and with nothing but overheated air to breathe, they can't live very long.

If your pet is fortunate enough to survive, its heart and lungs can be severely and permanently damaged. You may not see it, but the pet will have to live with it and suffer the rest of its life.

Many people think that by leaving their car on with the air conditioning running, they can bypass these problems. Forget it. Would you leave a small child in a running car? Probably not.

If the engine quits, and they do, you'll be faced with the same situation as above. Besides, an animal that roams freely in the car may accidentally set the car in motion, causing havoc that may be costly to you and deadly to it.

Many of Florida's attractions have air-conditioned kennels available for your pet. Some are free, and some charge a nominal fee. If in doubt, call before you leave home.

Planning for your pet is as much a part of trip planning as planning for your kids _ and they are just furry kids, after all.

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