The head index today is expected to reach a high of 110 degrees and a excessive heat warning is in effect through Sunday at 8 p.m. While it is critical to be cautious for ourselves, our family and our friends and neighbors who are vulnerable, it is also crucial to watch out for our pets.

No matter how much you cater to your furry friends, things still need to be stepped up in extreme weather like this. This means doubling the efforts to provide water at home and bring extra in the car or on the walk. It means to make sure the air conditioning is on at a comfortable level if we leave our pets home.

It means not leaving our dogs unattended for any longer than they have to be. It means keeping walks and exercise outdoors to a minimum for the time being. It means not leaving our dogs tied to a leash outside a store or cafe while we run in for however long.

And above all — it means NEVER leaving our dogs (or cats, if your cat goes in the car) in the car unattended. It doesn’t matter if it is five minutes. It doesn’t matter if the air is on and the car is running. It doesn’t matter if you feel you’ve cracked all the windows and really need that gallon of milk before heading home.

The Center for Disease control says even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly.

“Leaving a window open is not enough- temperatures inside the car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes, even with a window cracked open,” it says.

And if keeping your pets safe is not enough motivation, in Connecticut, a person leaving an animal confined in a parked car in extreme heat (or cold) may be charged with animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both for a first offense and is a class D felony for a subsequent offense. Intentional and malicious animal cruelty is a class D felony for a first offense and a Class C felony for a subsequent offense.

Connecticut law says a defense for a person you don’t know who enters your car in these circumstances can be because they “have a reasonable belief, at the time such person enters the passenger motor vehicle, that such entry is necessary to remove the child or animal from imminent danger of serious bodily injury.”

The law, Substitute House Bill No. 5312, says those entering the car should use no more force than necessary to enter the car and must report it to law enforcement.

But the main reason we shouldn’t leave our dogs in cars is because we love them. Even the shortest periods of time can cause them suffering and extreme discomfort at best, and in the worst circumstances a terrible, painful and tortuous death.

Keep your loved ones, including the smallest and furriest, safe during this heatwave.

If you lose power or are without access to a cooling venue, call the Darien Police non-emergency number at 203-662-5300. Call 911 if you feel symptoms of a heat-related health crisis. And remember the Darien Library is available as a cooling center until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.