Minnesotans don’t get very many hot summer days. But when we do we head outside in herds, with pets in tow.

Sharing some common sense tips can help make summer more enjoyable for you, your pet and the “universe” in general.

Let’s start with chewing gum, a nuisance to people and potentially deadly to pets. When people are out walking dogs in the summer months, chewing gum on roads and sidewalks can be fatal to dogs. Many “sugar free” gum products contain an ingredient called Xylitol. This common sweetener can be toxic to dogs.

If you ever suspect your pet has ingested it, you should call your vet immediately. Xylitol can be found in other products including sugar-free candy, breath mints, some types of peanut butter, cough syrup and even toothpaste.

Always wrap chewing gum in paper and dispose of it in a trash receptacle. Chocolate can also lead to illness and even death in dogs and is one of the most common causes of dog poisoning.

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Read labels and keep deadly toxins such as fertilizers, rodent and bug poison or other chemicals far out of reach from pets.

And, lastly, always clean up after your dog when walking outdoors to keep the environment clean, healthy and safe for all.

As humidity increases and temperatures rise, dogs are also at risk for heatstroke. Allow your dog to play outdoors as long as you can join him comfortably. Make sure he always has plenty of cold, fresh water and access to shade.

Providing a wading pool for your pets, with a low level of water, is also a great idea. Walk your dogs early in the morning or late evening and check the sidewalk to ensure it’s not hot enough to burn the sensitive pads on your dog’s feet. If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, spray him with water or cover him in water-soaked towels to cool him off. Move him indoors and seek veterinary care.

Above all, never leave your pet in your car! On an 85 degree day, a car with its window partially rolled down will reach 105 degrees in only 10 minutes. Animals can suffer brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes.

If you see a dog left alone in a hot car, take down the car’s color, model, make and license plate number. Have the owner paged in the nearest buildings or call the police.

Don’t leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.

Feel free to call the Humane Society of Otter Tail County at 218-739-3494 with your questions or concerns.