Downeast Dog News
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The Dog Days of Summer

By Susan Spisak | Jul 01, 2019

Welcome to what’s often referred to as the dog days of summer. While many people believe this saying refers to lazy dogs lounging around in the shade during the heat-filled summer days, the phrase actually has astronomical tie-ins dating back to the Romans.

During the summer, Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, rises and sets with the sun. On July 23, Sirius is in conjunction with the sun. The ancient Romans believed that the Dog Star’s heat combined with the sun’s heat created this stretch of hot and sultry weather. The Romans named this time, from 20 days before the conjunction (July 3) to 20 days after (August 11), the “dog days” after the Dog Star, Sirius.

(A bit of related trivia to dazzle your friends: Sirius is the brightest star in the sky, and you can just pick out the flicker of Sirius in early August, low and to the southeast. It is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog, hence the name Dog Star.)

All that said, the Romans were correct in that the dog days are often hot and humid, which leaves you sweaty and sticky. So how do you suppose your dog feels, especially if he’s a fluffy, furry breed? Probably miserable. But by taking a few extra precautions, you can assure his warm weather comfort, safety, and wellbeing.

Please don’t leave your dog in the car, even if the windows are open partway--dogs succumb to heatstroke quickly. I saw a police officer remove a tiny pup from a car on a hot summer day. The elderly owner returned and was visibly upset--she was sure her little dog had been stolen. The returning officer informed her that her pooch was resting in their air-conditioned station. Then he politely chewed her out.

Speaking of overheating or heatstroke, some signs include heavy panting, weakness, rapid breathing, vomiting, and drooling. Take immediate action if he’s experiencing any of these. Offer drinking water, rinse or bathe him with cool water (do not submerge his head), apply a cold wet towel to his body, and call your vet or emergency animal clinic immediately.

Keep his temp down with a cooling mat, vest or cushion--most options utilize water or gel-based inserts. They’re a great indoor cooling tool if air conditioning is lacking or on the fritz because dogs can overheat indoors, too.

Only allow your dog outdoors for short periods, and make sure he has access to a shaded area. If your yard doesn’t have a cool, sunless spot, consider purchasing a large patio umbrella or hang a fabric shade sail between wood posts. For quick cool downs, set up a sprinkler or kiddie pool--why not let him have a little fun, too? If he has a doghouse, remember that these summer days are not the time for him to lay in the small enclosed area.

Take walks during the cooler morning or evening hours. Carry a water bottle and a portable bowl for his hydration. Don’t go too far and take breaks. You know how the heat drains you, same for him.

The hot summertime produces thunderstorms and many dogs, including our Bo, are afraid of them. Our vet recommended the ThunderShirt®, an anxiety vest. While it helps, Bo needs something more to reduce his fears--so we use it in conjunction with an organic calming aid. Talk to your vet about possible options to relieve your dog’s anxiety.

Summer also brings fireworks and noise phobic dogs can go into flight mode, particularly around the 4th. (Because dogs’ hearing is far more acute than ours, the loud noises are alarming and pose a perceived threat--resulting in fleeing.) Take measures such as locking home doors, taking him outdoors on a leash only when nature calls, and keeping music or TV on to drown out the boomers. Make sure he has a safe place indoors--Bo has a soft crate where he hides. If you have children or guests, make sure they’re aware of these house rules.

If your pet has flight potential, make sure he’s always wearing his collar with a tag imprinted with your cell number. Ask your vet about microchipping him--it’s a tiny, injectable, permanent ID. Register your contact info in a microchip recovery database like FreePetChipRegistry™. If he gets lost and lands at a shelter or vet’s office, they’ll scan him and contact you immediately.

If, despite your precautions, he does bolt, take immediate action. Print flyers with his picture, name, and your details, including any reward information and post in your neighborhood and beyond. (A young healthy dog can run about a 5 mile distance while a smaller dog may stay closer to home.) Walk and drive the area quickly and enlist family members to help. Take along flyers for neighbors and search bushes, under porches, and backyards.

Alert your town, nearby shelters, vets, animal control facilities, rescues, and law enforcement and ask that they post your “missing dog” on their social media pages. Also contact Maine Lost Dog Recovery, a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to empower and coach families of lost dogs and share the tools to find their missing pets. They may post your dog’s info on their Facebook page as well. Check them out at facebook.com/pg/MaineLostDogRecovery/about/?ref=page_internal.