With a heat wave forecasted to hit Natick (and other places) starting this weekend, pet owners are reminded to take extra precautions with their animals to keep them safe. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says dog owners should keep a sharp eye on their pets and keep them from overheating. The humane society recommends that walks take place in the early morning or later in the evening, not during the heat of the day.
Natick Animal Control Officer Keith Tosi says that although this summer has brought some pretty hot days, “thankfully, we haven’t really had any incidents. In the past, dogs have been left in cars in the Natick Mall or Sherwood Plaza, but it’s been a slow season for that this year.” Tosi attributes the lack of incidents partly to the coronavirus pandemic. With stores closed, people (and their dogs) aren’t going out. Even as the state gradually opens, Tosi says the number of people venturing out just isn’t as high as, say, this time last year.
If the Natick Police do get a call about a dog left in a car, he says, “We usually judge it. We try to educate people, just to use common sense. If it’s a hot day and a dog is in a car, we can get in there pretty quick. We’ve had a few incidents in the past when we’ve had to force entry and remove the dog. We don’t see it like we have pre-COVID.”
Long walks on hot days are probably the second-biggest danger for pets. Definitely take it seriously when you notice your dog panting more, getting tired, and wanting shorter walks. The loyal nature of dogs can be their biggest downfall, as they try to keep going with their owner. If you’ve ever had to carry your 60-lb Labrador back to the car, you understand. (There are 399 Labs registered in Natick, making them the most popular dog breed in town.)
What can drive problems
The summer months are not the time to bring your best bud along to ride shotgun during errands. Don’t leave your pet in a car on hot days, ever. Not even for a quick minute, or if you leave the windows open, or even if the car is running and the air conditioner is cranked up. Car temperatures can easily rise to over 100 degrees within ten minutes. After that, they can get up to 120 degrees or higher, fast. Dogs don’t have a chance against that kind of heat. Also, it is illegal in Massachusetts to leave animals in vehicles where they are subject to danger from extreme weather conditions.
A little time at the spa
Let your pet laze around and enjoy this time that’s named just for him — the dog days of summer. During the intense mid-day heat, keep walks to a bare minimum. Better yet, limit walks to early in the morning or after the sun goes down.
If your dog really needs some outside time, park your pooch under a shade tree for a little while, with his water bowl close at hand. Add ice to his water every now and then. If you have one of those elevated pet cots, now’s the time to break it out. They increase air flow on alls sides of your pet, which helps keep him cool. A baby pool filled with cool, refreshing water would complete the spa environment.
Just know that shade doesn’t provide all that much protection, so keep his time outside limited. The best place for your dog during extreme heat is inside.
If your pet is suffering he won’t be subtle about letting you know. Look out for these signs of trouble, which could indicate heatstroke or dehydration:
- heavy panting
- glazed eyes
- rapid heartbeat
- difficulty breathing
- excessive thirst
- lack of coordination
- profuse drooling
- body temperature of over 104 degrees (normal is 101 – 102.5)
- a deep red or purple tongue
- seizure, collapse, or unconsciousness
If these signs present, seek immediate medical attention for your dog.
Let’s all keep Natick’s 2,700 registered dogs nice and safe all summer. Heaven knows, they’re worth the extra effort. Who’s a good human friend? You are, that’s who.