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Keep your pets safe during the dog days of summer


Anyone who’s stepped outside in the past few weeks knows that it’s been a scorcher. Here in Massachusetts, we get the double fun of high heat coupled with high humidity that can make even the most ardent sun lovers scramble for air conditioning.

The ancient Greeks associated this time of the year with the emergence of Sirius (the Dog Star) in the night sky, seeing it as a precursor to a season of humid, sultry heat. It was an association that was so strong, it lingers today in the phrase “the dog days of summer.”

As a new dog owner myself — I am the proud dog dad of a Saint Bernard named Cleopatra after a historical figure who herself was no stranger to some hot climates — I know that the heat doesn’t just affect those of us who walk upright but our four-legged friends, as well.

As sheriff, it is my duty to serve the public safety needs of everyone in Norfolk County – including our pets. Because they rely on us for their care and comfort, it’s important that we know how to properly provide for them during bouts of extreme weather. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind folks of some of the things you can do to keep your pets safe during the summer.

First, always remember that you should never leave an animal (or a child, for that matter) in a car in the summer, even if you’ve left the air conditioner on or the windows cracked. Cars can stall, and A/Cs can turn off, leaving your pet in danger of quickly overheating. In 85-degree heat, the temperature inside a car can get critically hot within minutes, putting your pet at risk of organ damage or death. If you see an animal trapped inside 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 indoors when the weather gets as hot as it has been, but we know that they will often need to go outside. When you take them outside, keep your walks short and try to limit your outdoor time to cooler mornings and evenings. Remember, too, that the pavement can be very hot on Fido’s feet, which can lead to potential burns or discomfort for your furry friend. Dogs also regulate their heat through their paws, which means standing on a hot surface can not only burn their feet but can cause them to overheat.

To keep your pets cool, always provide plenty of shade and a supply of clean drinking water. If you are worried that your pet might be overheating, you should immediately move them to the shade or an air-conditioned area. Placing cold towels or ice packs on their torso, head and neck while running cool (though 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 our pets may face during the summer. If you have a pool, be sure to supervise your animals around it. Not all pets can swim, and even those who can may struggle to get in and out of a pool if they fall in. It’s also good to invest in a life vest for your pup if you take it boating or to open water. Dogs who love to swim can sometimes tire themselves out, and a life vest can help keep them afloat.

Finally, as anyone who’s walked in tall grass in New England knows, ticks are always out in force! Keep your pets on a regular flea/tick prevention medicine, and always check for stowaways when you get back from walking in brush, grass or wooded areas with your dog.

Summer is a great time to stretch our legs and give our animal friends a chance to burn off 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.


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