Seasonal Pet Safety Tips

Keep pets safe on warm summer days

If you love them, leave 'em at home

Never leave your pet alone in a parked car

A majority of days in Denver are sunny and summer temperatures can climb into the triple digits—so please, never leave pets alone in vehicles.

Temperatures inside a vehicle can reach 120°F in a matter of minutes, even if temperatures are mild and windows are open. In just minutes, a dog can suffer life-threatening heatstroke which can cause organ failure and death. Dogs don’t sweat like humans. They sweat small amounts through their paws and nose, but not enough to release excess body heat. Instead, they primarily release heat by panting, exchanging hot for cool air. So, if a dog can’t expel heat, their internal body temperature begins to rise.

Obesity and pre-existing medical conditions put pets at much higher risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Puppies, elderly, long-haired, dark-haired and flat-faced dogs are also more at risk for overheating.

Every year, Denver Animal Protection (DAP) receives hundreds of calls of dogs left inside vehicles during extreme temperatures.

If you are concerned about a pet locked in a hot car, call 311 and familiarize yourself with the Good Samaritan law. The state offers legal immunity for those who break into a locked vehicle to rescue a dog, cat, or an at-risk person. And those who leave their pet in an overheated car, could receive a summons for animal cruelty, a fine of up to $999 and/or 300 days in jail.

If you suspect an animal is suffering from heatstroke:

  • Move the animal to shade or a cooler area
  • Cool the pet down with water or ice packs on the stomach only
  • Offer cool drinking water, but do not force-feed water
  • Don’t submerge the pet in water, this can cause further hurt them when temperature regulation is impaired
  • Don’t cover, crate, or confine the pet
  • Even if your pet responds to cooling treatments, it’s critical you go to an emergency veterinarian.

Other things to keep in mind to keep pets safe in the summer

  • Don’t transport animals in the beds of pickup trucks. It’s illegal to let dogs ride loose in truck beds. The hot metal can also burn their paws. Exposure to direct sunlight can be just as harmful as being left inside an enclosed vehicle.
  • Keep walks during peak daytime hours to a minimum.
  • Be mindful of hot pavement that can burn your pet’s feet. If you can’t hold your bare hand on pavement for 10 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on. Also, being so close to the warm ground, your dog’s body can heat up quickly.
  • Provide adequate shelter from the elements, as well as access to fresh water. Denver city ordinance requires pets have adequate outdoor shelter, such as a doghouse, porch area, or similar structure that allows an animal to escape the elements.

With these tips in mind, enjoy a fun summer with your furry friends. Don’t forget the safest place for your pet during the hot summer months is at home. “If you love, ‘leave ‘em at home.”

Additional Pet Safety Tips

Ensuring a Safe, Enjoyable Fourth of July for Pets

American Independence Day (July 4) is an exciting day for people; filled with celebration and dazzling displays of fireworks lighting up the sky. However, the festivities can be frightening to pets. This holiday is an important time to be aware of pet safety. The loud noises, lights, and smoke created by fireworks can be scary to even the most mild-mannered pets. Frightened animals are much more likely to run, hide, or become destructive.

There are many ways to keep your pet safe and calm during the celebrations. Think twice before you take your pet with you to that BBQ or fireworks display and check out the following pet safety tips:


  • Take your pet to parades or fireworks displays or leave your pet in the car at fireworks shows.
  • Leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. Pets that normally wouldn't leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, when fearful. This could put them at risk of injury or death.


  • Keep pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure you've removed any fragile items.
  • Find a pet sitter if you’re spending the day away from home.
  • Provide a safe place. Pets may seek out a small den-like place, such as a crate, if they are fearful or stressed. Create a safe place and familiarize your pet with the area to reduce stress during fireworks.
  • License and microchip your pet. If your pet escapes, make sure your pet is licensed and microchipped. Having identification will increase the likelihood your pet will be returned to you. Visit Denver Animal Protection (DAP) to get your pet microchipped or licensed today.
  • Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags, so if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. DAP offers customizable pet IDs.
  • Use a leash or carrier when transporting your pet. If you must be outside with your pet, keep the pet on a leash or in carrier.
  • Talk to your veterinarian if you know your dog has anxiety.
  • Keep sparklers, glow sticks, charcoal, food scraps and kabob skewers away from curious pets.

If you find an animal running at large, please take it to your local animal shelter. Animals dropped off at the shelter have the best chance of being reunited with their owners. Denver Animal Shelter even has “night drop” kennels where animals can be dropped off, even if the shelter is closed.

A lost pet can mean a broken heart. If your pet does become lost over the holiday weekend, check the lost pet listings online and/or visit Denver Animal Shelter in person to look for your lost pet.

Keep Your Pet Safe on Halloween

a dog wearing a festive Halloween bandana Halloween can be a tricky night for your pets with all those ghost and goblins lurking about and tasty treats tempting their palates. Our experts recommend taking some precautions to keep your pets happy and healthy throughout this spooky season.

Keep Treats Out of Reach

All forms of chocolate—especially baking or dark chocolate—can be dangerous, even lethal, for dogs and cats. The higher the cocoa content, the worse the reaction. Veterinarians say it takes just one ounce of milk chocolate for every pound of your dog’s weight to cause a poisonous reaction. So, one pound of chocolate can poison a 20-pound dog.  Also, Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, call your vet or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Be Careful with Costumes

The National Retail Federation estimates 29-million dog and cat owners will dress up their pets for Halloween this year. But for some animals, wearing a costume can be stressful. Don’t put your pet in a costume unless you’re sure they’ll be safe. Costumes can restrict movement, hearing, eyesight, or the ability to breathe. Also, check for pieces that can be chewed off and become a choking hazard. Pets wearing a costume should always be supervised so if something goes wrong, you can address it right away. Remember, frightened pets are more likely to bite, scratch, or bolt from the house to escape the perceived danger. You can always play it safe and put a festive bandana on your pet instead.

Watch the Decorations

A carved jack-o-lantern is festive, but pets can easily knock over a lit pumpkin and start a fire. Curious kittens are especially at risk of getting burned or singed by candle flame. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered non-toxic but can cause upset stomachs in pets who eat them, so keep the festive fun out of reach of your pet. Also, glow sticks can be poisonous. Fake cobwebs and strung lights can choke or entangle your pet. And, keep in mind that masks and costumes can change how people look, so even people your dog knows may scare them and cause uncertainty.

Keep Pets Calm and Away from the Door

Halloween brings a flurry of visitors, especially odd-looking ones in costumes, arriving at the door which can be scary and stressful for pets. It could also make them more aggressive in protecting their humans. Unless your pets are extremely social, they should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours with a TV or soothing music on for company and a toy bone to chew on. This also prevents your pets from darting outside when opening the door.

Make sure Pets have ID

If your dog or cat should escape and become lost, having proper identification will increase the odds they’ll get home safe. Collars and tags help a good Samaritan or animal protection officer return your stray pet. When you license your pet with DAP, you get an ID tag that allows anyone with a smartphone to scan the QR code to retrieve your contact information. Also, microchips offer permanent identification should the collar or tag fall off. Just make sure the information is up to date by calling your microchip company or checking online. If you don’t know what company to call, your vet or shelter can scan the chip and verify the information. DAP offers low-cost microchipping and pet vaccines to Denver residents on Saturday and Sunday from 9-11 a.m. at the Denver Animal Shelter.

Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips

When daytime temps start hitting single digits and overnight dipping below zero, it is important that you take steps to ensure that pets are protected from the elements. Failing to do so could have dangerous consequence for pets and lead to a Cruelty to Animals or Animal Neglect charge, up to a $999 fine and/or a year in jail for the owner.

The best way to protect pets from extreme temperatures is to avoid long-term outdoor exposure. But, if pets must be outside for longer durations, Denver city ordinance requires pets have adequate outdoor shelter such as a doghouse, porch area, or a similar structure that allows the animal to escape the elements. Further insulating the shelter or adding a “doggie door” to a garage or covered area adds another layer of protection from the cold.

Additional tips include:

  • When pets come in from the outdoors, remove snow, ice, salt and other ice-treatment chemicals from their coats and paws. This will keep them dry, but also prevent them from ingesting the chemicals.
  • Check for cracks in paw pads or redness between toes. Massaging petroleum jelly into paw pads before going outside can protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide protection from irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.
  • Temperatures can change quickly in winter, especially as the sun sets. It’s important to remember not to leave your pet in a vehicle for prolonged periods of time.
  • Don’t leave dangerous and potentially lethal chemicals like snow and ice remover or anti-freeze within your pet’s reach.
  • Check under the hood of outdoor vehicles before starting them up. Stray cats often look for refuge in warm engines.
  • Don’t shave your dog down to the skin in the winter as a longer winter coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting a coat or sweater.
  • Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in the wintertime. Feed pets a bit more during the cold weather months to help provide much-needed calories, but check with your vet for the proper amount, as too much can contribute to obesity and health issues. Ensure that they also have plenty of water to keep them hydrated and to prevent dry skin. 

Winter Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Our dogs and cats are part of the family, so during the holidays, you may be tempted to include them in the celebration and share with them a cornucopia of holiday foods. Denver Animal Protection (DAP) offers the following tips to keep your pets healthy and happy this holiday season.

Follow These Food Safety Guidelines for Fluffy and Fido

DAP veterinarian Dr. Louisa Poon says most people food will give your pet an upset stomach and some foods can even be dangerous. To sidestep a visit to the vet avoid feeding your pets holiday goodies, paying special attention to the list below:

Do Away with Dough, Cake Batter - A combination of raw bread dough and the pet’s body heat can cause dough to rise inside the stomach, resulting in severe bloating, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Raw eggs in batter could also harbor harmful bacteria.

Omit the Onion and Garlic - These ingredients contain sulfides, which in large amounts are toxic to animals and can destroy red blood cells, especially in cats, causing toxic anemia.

See Ya Sage - This, as well as many other herbs, contain essential oils and resins that can cause intestinal upset and central nervous system depression in pets, especially cats.

Refrain from Raisins and Grapes - In addition to being a choking hazard, ingestion of either can cause kidney damage. Just a single serving of raisins or grapes can lead to kidney failure and even death in a dog. The effects are cumulative, so even if a dog eats a few grapes or raisins over time, the toxins build up in their system.

No to Walnuts and Macadamia Nuts - These can cause weakness, depression, incoordination, and tremors. Also, the high-fat levels of these nuts may cause pancreatitis in dogs, resulting in severe vomiting and diarrhea. Some types of nuts, specifically peanuts (including peanut butter), almonds, and pistachios are fine to feed most dogs in small quantities. Large quantities are unsafe since nuts contain high amounts of oils and fats and can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis.

Chuck the Chocolate - Chocolate can be toxic for pets, or even fatal, due to a substance called theobromine. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolates are especially toxic.

X the Xylitol - Many candies and chewing gum contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can cause a severe drop in blood glucose in dogs. As soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, dogs can begin to show signs of depression, loss of coordination, and seizures. Xylitol may also lead to delayed onset damage to the liver occurring days to weeks after ingestion. This toxicity in pets may be fatal and requires immediate medical attention. Also, read labels carefully, as this sweetener has become popular in common items such as peanut butter.

Adios Avocados - Toss that leftover guacamole and spare your dog the heart, lung, and tissue damage it can cause. Persin is the culprit, a component of avocado that’s safe for people and toxic to dogs.

Bye Bye Beer - Alcohol, especially the hops in beer, can be particularly harmful to dogs, causing intoxication, panting, fever, racing heart, liver damage, even coma, seizures, and death.

Steer Clear of Caffeine - Any coffee, tea or caffeinated product is not safe for dogs’ central nervous and cardiac systems. Spare your pup any restlessness and heart palpitations. Don’t let him near your morning joe.

Guard the Garbage - Besides keeping certain foods away from your pets, you should also keep them out of the garbage can. Make sure your pet can’t get the plastic wraps, bones, trimmings, and other temptations from the trash.

You Don’t Have to be Scrooge

Avoid feeding your pet holiday treats and consider giving a fun treat or toy instead of food, like a Kong. A Kong should keep your pets occupied during holiday mealtime. You can fill a Kong or similar toy with catnip or treats for cats. For dogs, you can also stuff an interactive toy with their usual food or treats.

It’s also safe to offer a small amount of cooked turkey without skin and gravy, but don’t include any bones since turkey bones splinter and can cause extensive damage to the stomach or get lodged in their throat or stomach. It’s also safe to offer cooked vegetables, like sweet potatoes, green beans, and squash. Cooked or canned pumpkin is also safe.

A Safe Home for the Holidays

The holidays mean festive gatherings and more people in your home than usual. Pet parents prepare your pet before guests arrive:

  • Keep your pet in a comfortable place away from guests. If you know your dog doesn’t care for guests, have a crate ready in a quiet spot with a closed door.
  • Provide distractions. Have a variety of items to occupy your dog’s time while you visit with friends and family. This can include food-stuffed toys or puzzles, bones, chews, chew sticks and toys.

Exercise is also a good way to get your dog tired and less rambunctious before guests arrive.

If you’ve recently adopted a new pet, keep in mind new people can be overwhelming. It’s best to slowly introduce the pet to guests. When in doubt, keep your pet in a quiet place until you know how they will react.

Even the best laid plans can go astray, so if your pet ingests something harmful or shows signs of illness, call your veterinarian immediately. You can also call the ASPCA pet poison hotline at (888) 426-4435 for advice. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.