These are the “Dog Days” of summer — that period characterized by unusually hot and sultry weather conditions.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the Dog Days are defined as the period between early July and early September when the hot weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere.

Various explanations have been extended as to why this period of summer is called Dog Days.

One is presented by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The original Egyptian calendar, consisting of 360 days, begins its New Year festivals when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises. This occurs annually during mid-summer when temperatures are the highest, accompanied by decreased precipitation. So, the wordage “Dog Days” emerged as a phrase to refer to the long stretch of extreme summer weather and it has been handed down through generations.

A second explanation, somewhat different but still relating to the “dog star”, Sirius, is also common.

In prehistoric times, various groups of people in different parts of the world, especially in those countries bordering the Mediterranean, drew images in the night sky by “connecting the dots” of stars. The images were determined according to the group’s culture and identity. These pictures, now called constellations, were images of bears (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), twins (Gemini), a bull (Taurus), dogs and others.

In the summer, during late July, Sirius, the “dog star” rises and sets with the sun. People in ancient times believed the star’s heat in conjunction with the heat of the sun created an extended period of hot and humid weather. They identified this stretch of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20days after, as Dog Days after the dog star.

The conjunction of the sun with Sirius alters somewhat with differences in latitude and the precession of the equinoxes. The gradual drifting of the constellations means that they are not exactly in the same place in the sky as they were originally. Even though this period has proven to be the warmest part of the summer, the heat is not due to additional radiation from a star.

Today, Dog Days are considered the period between July 3 and Aug. 11 and no matter how they got their name, dealing with the heat is a reality for humans – and dogs and other animals.

It’s not a new topic but one that we reinforce today. Appropriate emphasis frequently is on stopping people from leaving children alone in a vehicle, but the same danger applies to dogs and other pets.

The temperature inside a car can skyrocket after just a few minutes. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked does very little to alleviate this pressure cooker.

On a warm, sunny day try turning your car off, cracking your windows and sitting there. It will only be a few short minutes before it becomes unbearable. Imagine how your helpless pet will feel. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 102 degrees within only 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At 110 degrees, pets are in danger of heatstroke. On hot and humid days, the temperature in a car parked in direct sunlight can rise more than 30 degrees per minute, and quickly become lethal.

Dogs are designed to conserve heat. Their sweat glands, which exist on their nose and the pads of their feet, are inadequate for cooling during hot days. Panting and drinking water helps cool them, but if they only have hot air to breathe, dogs can suffer brain and organ damage after just 15 minutes. Short-nosed breeds, young pets, seniors or pets with weight, respiratory, cardiovascular or other health problems are especially susceptible to heat-related stress.

Law enforcement officers are authorized to remove a person or animal left in an unattended vehicle that is exhibiting signs of heat stress. Police can use the amount of force necessary and shall not be liable for any damages reasonably related to the removal. The car owner may be charged.

Don’t let the Dog Days be fatal – to anyone, including your dog!

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