Beating the Heat in the Dog Days of Summer

Discover how animals manage hot weather during the dog days of summer.

  • A small herd of cattle cool off in a pond on a hot summer day.
    Photo by Goce Risteski
  • A yellow dog looks out the window of a car.
    Photo by iStockphoto/PK-Photos

Last summer was a scorcher across much of the United States, with temperatures near or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit for days and weeks on end. Here are some cool facts to help you cope with the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Ever wondered why the weeks from early July through early September are called the “Dog Days” of summer? The name comes from the ancient belief that when Sirius, also known as the Dog Star — the brightest star in Earth’s night sky — came in close proximity to the sun, it was responsible for extremely hot weather.

How hot is hot? Hot enough to fry the bill off a woodpecker? Or hot enough to fry an egg? The Everyday Mysteries website of the Library of Congress says it takes a skillet temperature of 158 F to fry an egg in the kitchen. But what about frying an egg in the direct sunlight? One informal study showed that a raw egg placed in a skillet with cooking oil can fry to a firm consistency in about 20 minutes in direct sunlight when the skillet temperature reached 135 F.

A couple summers ago, the folks at AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania, conducted an informal experiment to measure the surface temperature of several objects on a 100-degree day. They found that blacktop asphalt reached a temperature of 149, while a concrete sidewalk warmed up to 143, and the temperature of sand rose to 130 degrees. A light-colored car achieved a surface temperature of 136, while a dark-colored car reached 168.

What about the interior of your car on a hot day? Studies show that interior temperatures can exceed 125 F within just 20 minutes, climbing to 140 in less than an hour. That’s why it’s imperative that children and pets are not left inside a car during summer months, even for just a minute or two, and even if the windows are left cracked or rolled down.

The human body has between 2.5 and 3 million sweat glands, which help us cool down in extreme heat. Cows, on the other hand, mainly have sweat glands in their noses and around their shoulders, while dogs and cats have sweat glands in the pads of their feet. Pigs have no sweat glands, which is why they wallow in mud holes; the cool, muddy water protects their sensitive skin. Horses have the most sweat glands of any domestic animal — even more than a human. A horse subjected to an intense workout can lose as much as 10 to 15 quarts of sweat in an hour.

7/17/2015 9:55:20 AM

I freeze watermelon rinds as well as other rinds for my hens, they love them. I also spray their area under the trees where they take baths. I getting ready to go to Wal-Mart and buy a $5 hard-plastic swimming pool for the to wade in. Getting this will help keep their water pan. I also freeze old milk and juice cartons and place then in their water pan and the really like this! Hope this helps our newbies! Maquitaine S. July 16, 2015 Marquita

6/24/2014 9:32:11 AM

A very timely reminder, especially here in Arizona where we have been at 100 or over for the past few weeks...

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