Rebecca is a retired special education teacher. She earned a master's degree at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA.
What are the Dog Days Of Summer?
After a late morning walk recently, my dogs followed me inside. “Can’t say I blame them,” I thought. According to the temperature so far, it's going to be a scorcher. Hearing a rather loud lapping, I walked down the hall to discover one of them drinking from the toilet. “I need to make sure to keep the water dishes full of fresh, cool water both inside and outdoors, ” I thought. The dog days of summer are coming.
The expression "dog days of summer" refers to the sultry hottest days of July and August in the Northern Hemisphere or January and February in the Southern Hemisphere. They typically occur after July 24th (or January 24th in the Southern Hemisphere). It is at this time that Sirius is closest to the sun. Sirius, also called Dog Star, is the brightest star in the constellation, Canis Major.
In ancient times, the proximity of Sirius to the sun was thought to be the source of the raging heat that caused so many deaths. It is believed that the Ancient Romans actually sacrificed a dog during the period to appease Sirius.
Hot Weather and Dogs
In modern times, we know to take precautions in extreme heat. Our dogs can’t think as we do, so we must take precautions for them. The thermometer may read 78 degrees, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is an ideal time to take Fido on a long walk or run.
The heat index affects the weather in summer similar to how the wind chill factor works in winter. Humidity can cause the day to be much hotter than what the thermometer reads. An okay time for us to exercise may not be for our dogs. People have sweat glands that produce sweat. Among other ways of cooling the body, the evaporation of sweat cools the skin and reduces body temperature. Dogs have very few sweat glands; most are found on the pads of their feet. They rely on panting and a little dilation of blood vessels in the skin and the feet as cooling mechanisms. It is harder for dogs to cool down than people. Hypothermia or heat stroke can occur more quickly.
Causes Of Overheating In Dogs
When dogs get hot outside they often “ask” to go inside even if you are outside. However, if they are running or walking with you, or otherwise engaged in very active play, they don’t know when to stop and don’t want to. They behave like party revelers. Fido will need to depend on you to know when enough is enough.
Cases of heatstroke cases are the most common emergencies in veterinary clinics in the summer. It can happen quickly. Serious heatstroke can cause irreversible damage or death. Avoid taking long walks or running with your dog when it may be too hot for him but not you. Leaving dogs in hot cars is often the cause of hypothermia or heat strokes. Even with windows half down, the inside of a parked car can reach 150 degrees in just a few minutes. Never leave dogs in the car on a warm day!
How to Recognize Heat Stroke in Dogs
A dog’s temperature can be taken rectally. His normal temperature is 100.5 to 102.5. He will be Okay at 103 degrees. At 105 degrees he is at risk for heat exhaustion. A temperature of 107 degrees is the danger zone. A heatstroke caused by a temperature this high will cause irreversible damage or death. Look for the following signs of hypothermia or heat stroke.
- sluggish, lethargic
- wobbly gait
- disoriented state of mind
- red gums and tongue
What To Do For Heat Stroke In Dogs
If heat stroke is suspected, call a veterinary office for advice. Treatment will depend on severity. If his temperature didn’t go above 104 for long, he may just need to rest in a cool place with water to drink. Then watch him carefully. If he needs to be taken into the clinic, spray him down with water but not cold water. Wrap him in wet towels for the trip. Get there quickly. Later symptoms will be seizures and coma. The doctor will take over from there. Depending on the damage, he may need oxygen or fluid therapy.
Make a Giant Doggy Popsicle
A Cool Idea for the Dog Days of Summer
A giant doggy Popsickel is an especially good idea if you need to leave your dog outside for a while on a really hot day. Make a huge dog Popsicle.
You will need:
- hard treats that won’t disintegrate easily in water.
- a plastic ice cream bucket or clean plastic milk jug with the top cut off
- a can of beef or chicken broth
How to make it:
- Put a few of the treats in the container and fill it with water and the beef or chicken broth.
- Freeze for several hours until the water is completely frozen.
- Remove from the freezer and hold under running water to unmold.
- Put the dog Popsicle outside for Fido to enjoy.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 06, 2021:
I agree. Thanks, Peggy!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 05, 2021:
That giant popsicle for dogs would be a welcome treat. We see people walking their dogs when it is sizzling outside. Their paws on that hot asphalt can hurt them. People need to think of what it would be like walking barefoot on those hot pavements.