The Dog Days of Summer

August 16th, 2007 by Aileen

Does Your Doghouse Have AC and an In-Ground Pool?

Hot Dog

It’s August here in the mountains. I figure it must be August where you live, too. Our heat wave has gone on and on without relief for four solid weeks, without a drop of rain! Body temperature-plus (high-90s) every day, day after day, nary a breeze to rustle the leaves. Too hot to cook, too hot to garden, too hot to move around much at all. They call these “Dog Days.”

“Dog Days” got their name way back during the Roman Empire. We all know them traditionally as the hottest, most languid days of summer, but the designation had to do with the star Sirius – a.k.a. the Dog Star – the brightest star in the sky when it’s visible, the major star in the big dipper [Ursa Major] constellation. From a northern hemisphere vantage point, Sirius goes into conjunction (alignment) with our sun about the second week of July, rising and setting daily with the sun, thus disappearing from the night-time sky. “Dog Days” are traditionally counted from that time forward in a six-week period that lasts through the month of August.

Now, think about how uncomfortable these dog days would feel if you had to wear a fur coat 24 hours a day and couldn’t sweat. That’s miserable-squared, at least! Did you know that the colorful etiology of the term “Dog Days” speaks about an unhappy truth? Dogs suffer heat stroke quite readily if they have no means of staying cool.

Dogs have a higher core temperature than people to begin with – 101 to 102º F, and can start showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke after a smaller rise in core temperature than people – symptoms are serious at 105º. We all know better than to leave our dogs (or our children) in a vehicle during the hot day, but if they aren’t pampered indoor AC dogs, a little attention to their comfort while we’re at the office is advised.

Just like for people, obesity can exacerbate the problems of staying cool. Dehydration can happen quickly for a dog, so plenty of fresh cool water should be available to the dog, wherever s/he is spending the day, at all times. Shade is essential, and a nice patch of dirt – like the ground underneath a deck or porch – can be a dog’s best friend in really hot weather. The dog will scrape the surface of the dirt, eventually digging a dog-sized depression. Disturbing the dirt offers some immediate heat exchange from the cooler underground and the ground surface area, and a cool spot to lie.

Some fussy dog owners might be appalled at the idea of Queenie getting all ‘dirty’ laying like a hound under the porch all day, but if Queenie doesn’t have her own air conditioner and swimming pool, she’ll enjoy the down home-ness of it all. It won’t hurt her unless you use gnarly poisons and spray them thickly around the foundations and under the porches. As long as she’s getting brushed in the evening, bathed gently with cool water every week or so in this weather, and is current on her general pest control regimen, the dirt won’t hurt her at all.

Good advice is readily available on all sorts of ways to keep your dogs cool and comfortable through these high summer Dog Days. Check with your veterinarian, vet and shelter staffs, dog supply catalogues and breed journals, and on the internet. There are also some clever Dog Cooling Products out there I’m sorely tempted to try. I figure I could put one of these misters next to the hammock, the dogs can then jump in and share with me!

Hot Weather Pet Care Tips

Heat Safety Tips for Pet Owners

Tips for Pet Owners – Keeping Your Dog Cool in Hot Weather

One Response to “The Dog Days of Summer”

  1. Bobby Lee Says:

    Uh-Oh Hotdog!

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