As I was sitting here in my office, on our 20th straight day of temperatures north of 110f in the Phoenix area, the phrase “The Dog Days of Summer” seemed particularly relevant. Not necessarily from a veterinary point of view, just from a linguistic perspective! So, I looked it up!
What Does Dog Days of Summer Mean?
The “Dog Days of Summer” refers to the hot, humid weather that occurs in July and August here in the Northern Hemisphere. In Ancient Greece and Rome, the Dog Days were thought to be a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest. A time when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat! I have to say, they are still not far off from the truth! Today, the Dog Days are associated with summer’s peak temperatures and humidity.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, where I found these nuggets of information, consider the Dog Days to be the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, so starting soon after the Summer Solstice which falls around June 21. Coincidentally, this stretch of extreme 110f+ heat that we are currently enduring started on June 30. So, it is safe to say that we are bang in the middle of the Dog Days of Summer!
Why Are They Called the “Dog Days” of Summer?
Apparently, it’s all to do with the coincidental rising of Sirius, the Dog Star. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Majoris—the “Greater Dog”—which is where Sirius gets its canine nickname, as well as its official name, Alpha Canis Majoris. Not including our own Sun, Sirius is the brightest star in the sky.
The stars played a big role in the lives of the peoples of Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome. Like Instagram does for many generations today! Back then it was believed that the dawn rising of Sirius in mid-to-late summer contributed to the extreme weather of the season. In other words, the “combined heat” of super-bright Sirius and our Sun was thought to be the cause of summer’s sweltering temperatures. The name “Sirius” even stems from the Ancient Greek seírios, meaning “scorching.”
Of course, the appearance of Sirius does not actually affect seasonal weather here on Earth, but its appearance during the hottest part of summer ensures that the lore surrounding the star lives on today!
If you’re interested in more detail, please head over to the Old Farmer’s Almanac!*
Safely Endure These Dog Days of Summer With Your Pets
These seemingly never-ending temperatures put stress on all our bodies – human, canine, feline. None of us were built for these long-lasting extremes. So here’s a quick reminder of safety tips for your dogs and cats.
- Provide plenty of fresh water.
- Don’t leave them outside – even with shade. Even cats left outside all night, overnight can suffer from heatstroke.
- Don’t leave dogs in cars while you ‘quickly’ run into the store. The best place for your dog from June to mid October is at home in the AC.
- Don’t walk them on asphalt between about 8am and 8pm this time of year – the low temperature this morning in Phoenix was 97f, a record low! That asphalt is burning their paws.
- Don’t get them overheated by playing at home in the yard, or even the pool for too long. 94f pool water is not particularly refreshing for anyone! Heatstroke is a thing for dogs as well as humans. Get them some stimulating toys that they can play with inside.
If you want more detail, here are a couple of summer heat blog posts I’ve written in previous years that still hold true:
Questions? Contact Compassionate Animal Care
You can find lots more information on the dangers of heat on the ASPCA website. As always, if you have any concerns about your pet, please talk to your veterinarian. If you are here in Queen Creek or the East Valley, call 480.774.6995 to schedule an appointment with Compassionate Animal Care today.
And don’t worry, it will soon be Halloween and we’ll finally be reaching for those jackets again…hopefully!