We Are in the Dog Days of Summer... But What Does That Really Mean?

Written by Mary Triplett, Meteorologist

Last updated 7/31/2022, 5:46:25 PM

We are in the middle of the “Dog Days of Summer” across the United States but what does that really mean?

This is a period of time where it’s the hottest and most unbearable days of the summer season. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the time period is from July 3rd through August 11th. It’s not just a saying by people who are “over” summer but it actually has astronomical meaning.

The phrase is a reference to Sirius, the Dog Star and the brightest star seen on Earth. According to Greek mythology, Sirius was the dog of the hunter Orion. They placed the star in the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. 

In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun and on July 23rd it’s in perfect conjunction with the Sun.

The Farmer’s Almanac says the Romans believed it actually gave off heat and added to the Sun’s warmth, accounting for the long stretch of sultry weather.

While this period is the hottest stretch of the summer, it’s not because of a bright star, although that would be interesting. The summer heat is due to the result of the Earth’s tilt towards the Sun during this time in the year.  

While we are talking about the excessive heat we’ve felt across the country this summer, let’s touch base on heat safety for ourselves and for our furry friends.

The federal government has launched a new website, heat.gov, to help people and local governments beat the heat this summer. Heat is the number one weather related killer and this new website is aimed at local planners to help them decide whether it’s too hot for road work, at farmers for planting and harvesting advice and families to decide about daily activities.

Remember if you are outside for a lengthy period of time, check in with your body and understand the differences between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke. 

Dogs are similar to people when it comes to the hot weather but keep in mind that they can’t sweat and they can’t tell you when they are too hot. You will need to monitor them closely for these signs.

Don’t leave your pets in a car, even with the windows rolled down. Once the temperature rises into the 80’s it only takes 10 minutes for the vehicle to reach of 100 degrees! A little after 20 minutes it can reach 120 degrees! 

Before taking your dog out for a walk, do the “10 second rule” on the concrete. Place the back of your hand down on the pavement for 10 seconds and if it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your pup.

If you suspect that your furry friend may be showing signs of heat stroke, call the emergency vet immediately. Apply room temperature or cool water on their stomach, feet and armpits. Provide cool and continuous airflow, such as a fan, to help the dog cool down.