GREENSBORO, NC -- The warm weather will be here before we know it and just like you need to prepare yourself for the change you also need to prepare your pets.

Dr. Kelley Gebhardt of Happy Tails Veterinary Emergency Clinic says there a few ways to protect and prepare your four-legged family members.

First, mild winters in North Carolina mean your pets need to stay on preventative medicine for fleas, ticks and heartworms. Dr. Gebhardt says with the warm weather we've had this winter those pests could be worse. She says to always purchase medication through your veterinarian because products purchased in large retails stores or online could be counterfeit and might not provide support if your pet has a reaction. Even pets that stay inside should be on preventative medication. Dr. Gebhardt says to talk to your vet about what meds are best for your pet.

Just like you wouldn't start training for a marathon by running 26.2 miles, your pets shouldn't rush into exercise either. Dr. Gebhardt says to ease them back into activity when the weather gets worm. While you're outside make sure your furry friend doesn't overheat. Even on mild days dogs can suffer heat stroke if they overexert themselves.

Dr. Gebhardt says to exercise your pets early in the morning or later in the evening - not during the hottest part of the day. Never leave your pet in a hot car and make sure outdoor pets have access to shelter, shade and plenty of water.

On the hottest summer days the ground can burn your pet's paws. Try out the seven-second rule: if you can't leave your hand on the ground for at least seven seconds that means it's too hot for their feet.

One of the most important things you can do for your pet is to take them to annual exams and get them spayed/neutered. Not only does it prevent overpopulation but can prevent cancer of the reproductive organs and infection.

You should also make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines. The rabies vaccine is required by law in North Carolina even if your pet stays inside.