Anyone who’s been out in the past few weeks knows it’s been a scorcher. Here in Massachusetts, we get the double pleasure of high heat coupled with high humidity that can make even the most ardent sun worshipers rush for air conditioning.
The ancient Greeks associated this time of year with the emergence of Sirius (the Dog Star) in the night sky, viewing it as a precursor to a season of humid, sweltering heat. It was an association that was so strong that it persists today in the phrase “the scorching days of summer”.
As a new dog owner myself – I’m the proud dad of a St. Bernard named Cleopatra after a historical figure who herself was no stranger to certain hot climates – I know that heat n not only affects those of us who walk upright but our four-legged friends as well.
As Sheriff, it is my duty to meet the public safety needs of everyone in Norfolk County, including our pets. Because they rely on us for their well-being and comfort, it’s important that we know how to care for them during extreme weather events. So I wanted to take this opportunity to remind people of some of the things you can do to keep your pets safe during the summer.
First, always remember that you should never leave a pet (or child, for that matter) in a car in the summer, even if you left the air conditioner on or the windows cracked. Cars can stall and air conditioners can shut off, leaving your pet in danger of overheating quickly. In 85 degree heat, the temperature inside a car can become extremely hot within minutes, putting your pet at risk of organ damage or death. If you see an animal stuck in a hot car, call the police and try to find the owner. Stay with the car until help arrives.
It’s always best to give your pets a chance to come inside when the weather gets as hot as it has been, but we know they’ll need to get outside often. When taking them outside, keep your walks short and try to limit your time outdoors to cooler mornings and evenings. Also remember that the pavement can be very hot on Fido’s feet, which can cause burns or discomfort for your four-legged friend. Dogs also regulate their heat through their paws, which means standing on a hot surface can not only burn their feet, but also cause them to overheat.
To keep your animals cool, always provide plenty of shade and a supply of clean drinking water. If you are concerned that your pet is overheating, you should immediately move it to shade or an air-conditioned area. Placing cold towels or ice packs over their chest, head, and neck while running cool (but not cold) water over them can also help bring down their temperature. You can also give them access to small amounts of cool water to drink or let them lick ice cubes.
In addition to the heat, there are other dangers that our pets may face during the summer. If you have a swimming pool, be sure to supervise your pets around it. Not all pets can swim, and even those that can can have trouble getting in and out of a pool if they fall into it. It’s also a good idea to invest in a life jacket for your pup if you’re taking them boating or out in open water. Dogs that like to swim can get tired sometimes and a life jacket can help them stay afloat.
Finally, as anyone who has walked through the tall grass in New England knows, ticks are still out in force! Keep your pets on regular flea and tick treatment and always check for stowaways when you return from walking through brush, grass or wooded areas with your dog.
Summer is the perfect time to stretch our legs and give our animal friends a chance to burn some energy. Taking a few moments to prepare for safety means we can continue to enjoy these summer months for many years to come.
Patrick McDermott is the Sheriff of Norfolk County.