With sunny skies shining over Vancouver Island and warmer weather upon us, we have to start thinking about our four-legged friends.

So says the BC SPCA’s Stephanie Arkwright. She says we have to be extra careful when our pets are out and about this summer, especially when they’re in the car.

The Campbell River branch manager notes disaster can happen “really quickly” when leaving your pet in the passenger seat… in ten minutes, they could go into critical distress and suffer from heatstroke, especially if there’s no airflow.

With this in mind, Arkwright wants you to remember that animals don’t sweat like we do, because they don’t have the same sweat glands as us.

“They cool themselves by panting and sweating through their paws,” she says. “So when they’re sitting on hot upholstery, or in a vehicle that has no ventilation, they do overheat really quickly.”

As temperatures heat up, Arkwright urges you to avoid having your dog or cat with you “as much as you can” when leaving home.

“Leave them at home where they’re going to be nice and cool,” she says.

“If you absolutely have to bring them in the vehicle, it would be ideal to have someone who can stay with them, or bring them out of the vehicle while you’re doing what you have to do. We do have some locations that are pet friendly, but you should find that out first before assuming.”

She says it’s also important to have plenty of water in the car. And when it comes to spotting someone else’s pet in a hot car, Arkwright says there are ways you can help.

“If it’s a shopping centre or an area where there’s a store, we always recommend that people go in and see if the store’s willing to make an announcement,” she says.

She also notes that you can reach out to the BC SPCA call centre, your local RCMP detachment, or even your local animal control.

“They can do a welfare check to see if the animal is doing okay, and monitor the situation,” Arkwright adds.

RELATED: Know the dangers of leaving your pet in your car: RCMP

Arkwright’s plea comes as Powell River RCMP said they responded to a dog left in a hot car last Friday (May 14th), in the parking lot outside the local Shoppers Drugmart.

Officers found the dog, which did not appear to be in immediate distress, but was panting. The owners were found too and the dog was given water, and officers then talked with the owners about the dangers of leaving animals in a hot vehicle.

Just like Arkwright, police are now reminding you that your car can heat up very quickly… even with the windows cracked open.