What Does Dog Days of Summer mean?
The phrase “the dog days of summer”, surprisingly has no connection to dogs.
Nowadays it is used to describe the hottest most humid days of the Summer months. Some believe that the expression stems from the fact that dogs can be lethargic and sluggish on a hot day while others think that the extreme heat of this time can cause dogs to become crazy. However, both are untrue. Instead, this phrase dates back to the Greek and Roman empires.
The phrase originated from a star. Specifically the star Sirius, which is commonly referred to as the dog star as it is part of the constellation Canis Major, meaning greater dog. The Greek and Romans believed that this star was so bright that it exuded heat which added to the Sun’s warmth, resulting in the hottest weather of the Summer. This period is believed to begin on July 3rd and end August 11th. They referred to this duration as “diēs caniculārēs” meaning “dog days.”
However, we now know that the “dog days” of Summer have no connection with dogs or the star Sirius. Instead, the oppressive heat of this period is because the earth is tilted at an angle that allows the sun’s rays to shine on the Northern Hemisphere more directly and for longer, resulting in the hot Summer days.
Fun in the Sun: Tips to keep your pet dog safe this Summer
Unfortunately, during the Summer months, multiple reports of dogs dying, as owners have left them in hot, stuffy cars become very common. Though we are aware of the risks, this problem persists. This week a nineteen-year-old girl from Virginia, USA left her puppy inside a hot car, and it did not survive. Similar to this, recently in Britain, an owner left his dog in a car for hours while he attended a music festival and the dog also died. The Summer months, in particular, present many hazardous issues for pets and to keep you informed and up to date about these issues here is a list of the potential risks you can face as a dog owner during the Summer months and some tips on how to avoid and deal with these risks.
Firstly, and most obvious, do not leave your dog in a hot car, ever. Even if you leave the window slightly open for them, it is not enough to keep the car or them cool on a hot day. It only takes fifteen minutes for a dog to suffer from brain damage in a hot car. Even if you think you will not be long, do not risk it, as car temperatures take only minutes to reach dangerous levels for animals. If you do see a dog in a car on a hot day you should take note of its state, is it panting? Does it appear restless and uncoordinated? Does it have a red tongue? is it drooling? These are signs of heat stroke, and you should immediately contact the authorities and search for the owner. If the dog is clearly in jeopardy and cannot wait, you should take the necessary steps to remove the animal from the car.
If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, you should immediately provide them with a drink and if possible spray them with water or even better, submerge them in a pool of water. However, it is important that the water you use is not icy, instead use cool water. Cold water can exacerbate the condition as it will cause the dog’s blood vessels to constrict which will make it even harder for blood to flow around the body. You can also use an ice pack, applying it to your dogs head and neck to further cool them, and you can also apply cold, wet towels to their body to help bring their temperature down. After you have taken these steps, you should see a veterinarian even if your dog appears to be fine.
Another risk that dogs are susceptible to in the Summer months that may not occur to owners is hot pavements and paths. Like the human rule for staying out of the sun between twelve o clock and three when it is at its hottest, the same holds true for dogs. Walking your dog on a hot pavement can severely burn the pads of their paws resulting in painful scabbing and blistering. To avoid this, walk them on grass and if you can, walk them in the evenings when it is cooler. You can also buy dog booties and wax to put on your dog’s feet if you do have to walk them on a hot pavement and this will protect their foot pads.
Another danger you should be aware of as a dog owner is the risk of a sunburn. Though covered in fur, dogs are not immune to the sun. Breeds with white or light colored coats are more likely to burn as are dogs whose coat has been cut very close to the skin. To avoid this, you can now buy sunscreen specifically tailored towards dogs; you should make sure that you apply this to your dog’s ears, nose and belly. Any place that is usually pink on your dog is most vulnerable to the sun. However, if your dog does get burned apply Aloe vera twice daily to the burned areas or contact your vet for the appropriate aftercare.
When the Summer months arrive, the amount of dogs roaming the beach soars, as certain breeds love the water. Though this is a fun outing for dogs and owners, the sea can be dangerous. Firstly, if your dog does not want to go in the water do not force them as certain breeds do not excel at swimming, and they could drown. To prevent this, you can purchase life jackets for dogs to ensure that they will be safe in the water. You should also be vigilant and ensure that your dog does not eat dried seaweed or algae. Dried seaweed can expand in their stomachs having lethal consequences, and particular types of algae found in saltwater can be toxic to dogs as ingestion can cause paralysis and seizures.
Furthermore, it is also crucial that you regularly check your dog for ticks. Though small they can be very dangerous as they carry serious diseases such as Lyme disease which can result in kidney failure. To prevent ticks, you should avoid walking your dog in high-risk zones such as wooded and grassy areas as this is where ticks usually dwell. If you, unfortunately, do find a tick embedded in your dog’s skin you should remove it straight away. You can try and do this yourself, or you can schedule an appointment with your vet. If you do decide to remove the tick yourself, you need to be incredibly careful that you do not pull its body from its head as once the head is embedded, it becomes very hard to remove all of it. There are many available websites which offer step by step instructions for tick removal.
Though the Summer months are a fun filled time for a dog and its owner, these months, in particular, can present a multitude of risks to your dog. Therefore, It is important that you educate yourself about these hazards and how to combat them.