Dog Days in Appalachia

road through mountain vista

Have you ever  heard of dog days? I’ve heard about them all my life. They occur in the latter part of the summer so this is the perfect time to talk about them.

“Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia” written by Anthony Cavender is one of my favorite Appalachian resource books. Here’s what Cavender has to say about the dog days of summer.

Page 45

“The forth days (3 July to 11 August) encompassing the rise of the Dog Star, Sirius, was thought to be a dangerous time for both people and animals. During “dog days,” dogs were more susceptible to going made, snakes more inclined to bit, and sores and wounds less likely to heal.”

Page 104

“Many Southern Appalachians believed that snakes and dogs were particularly dangerous during the dog days of summer, when snakes became aggressive and dogs went mad.”

Page 108

“Removal of a tooth at dawn or during the dog days of summer was believed to bring bad luck.”


I’ve not heard the one about the tooth, but I have been told to beware of dogs and snakes during dog days. I recently heard someone say their grandmother wouldn’t allow them to swim during dog days.

I’ve also been told its harder for sores and cuts to heal during dog days so you better be careful when playing around outside or working with sharp objects.

Mad dogs and snakes aren’t alone in their anger, hot sticky humid dog days of summer have been known to make people act downright hateful too.


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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    August 17, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Tipper I recall on very hot day in dog days . We had about 17 to fix lunch for they were all buzzing around like bees and it was my lot to fix lunch or as we called it then dinner .we only had foot fans and sometime would set them in Windows for more cooling . I was busy making a four layer chocolate cake and my nerves were running thin as well. Mama was outside with a bunch of them walking around and stepped on a rusty nail. My brother law came running in and said your Mother step on a nail and we can’t persuade her to go to the doctor. I said wait a few more seconds and I have my cake iced and I be out there So I went she began her song and dance that she wasn’t going to mo doctor. I said I don’t have the time to stand her and watch you take lock jaw you do know it’s dog days. Boy up she came up and changed her dress and the others took her for a T . shot and I finished my dinner and feed 17 .

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan
    August 16, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Please tell Shirl to keep her dog out of the algae filled pond. This time of year a bunch of algae can make toxins that leak into the water. If a dog slurps any water or has open skin, these toxins can get in the dog and kill it. Saw it on the news as many vets were not familiar with this problem.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Caught you late, and had to post since you are discussing one of the most mysterious subjects I can remember from childhood. We all loved Indian Summer with the extra chance to get Summer chores done before Winter. Dog days of Summer not so much. We were warned of snakes striking more easily as they were blinded. Also, you did not want to get a wound or it would heal poorly, as more susceptible to dew poisoning. Now I am not sure if I read it in my studies or if it was a leftover from my raising, but I strongly advised all family not to have surgery in those worrisome days we learned to call “dog days.” As a nurse we studied about bacteria and how they favor a warm moist environment. So maybe those old timers were onto something, because the latter part of Summer is hot and sometimes very moist.
    Then there were the Fall Sores which I never completely understood. I was told my grandfather got one, and it had to be wrapped daily before he went to work. I never heard the doctors mention fall sores, dog days, nor dew poisoning, and personally felt they should know about all that since most were from Appalachia. I suppose that is something to wonder about another day.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 14, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Mommy used to talk about wet and dry dog days. Dry dog days was when it was hot and dry all summer. When ground cracked open and all the crops wilted and died. Wet dog days were when it was steamy and hot. It rained every day and the fields stayed soggy. The plants thrived! Weeds grew where you wanted grass and both competed to smother out the garden. It seems there was no middle ground. Perfect seasons were rare. Seems it’s still that way.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    August 14, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    I remember the “old folks” talked about dog days and “don’t do this and don’t do that” but we did pretty much as we pleased in the woods. They weren’t there.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    August 14, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Heard about dog days all my life. Also heard about mad dogs and biting snakes during this time. I don’t think I ever really knew before when they were, just sometime in July and August when it was humid and hot. This weather makes you ready for the Fall and its cooler temperatures.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2019 at 11:08 am

    I was also warned not to get in the creek during dog days. I’m glad they’re just about over for this year!

  • Reply
    Tom Deep
    August 14, 2019 at 9:51 am

    The dog days are a time when fishing slows down and the catch is hard to get. It is a time when the fish go deeper and are harder to locate. I have had a good start by moving to deeper water to catch them.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 14, 2019 at 9:37 am

    I heard about dog days throughout my childhood. We didn’t know about the dog star or any certain days–probably late July through August was “dog days” to us. We were told that injuries or sores were harder to heal during that time. It’s usually so dank and hot in west TN at that time, no wonder things might not heal well. It seems like Mama always said no more hot nights after August 12–anyone remember this? The cool mornings were such a relief .

  • Reply
    August 14, 2019 at 9:22 am

    I certainly remember “Dog Days” being referred to as the hottest days of summer were ending up. I didn’t know about the snakes but had heard it was associated with dogs going mad and something about the healing of sores on one’s body. Tipper, that is a beautiful picture of the road and mountains in the background – so lush and green.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2019 at 9:16 am

    My parents took extra care to see that we didn’t get hurt during dog days. My poor dog must be going mad, as she takes frequent dips in an algae filled pond that does little to cool her and does plenty to make her stink in these days with close to 100 degree heat index.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 14, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I’ve never heard about the tooth either. The grownups told us to not play in the creeks, which we did anyway. They also said that cuts and scratches would fester quicker. Looking back through the years to my childhood when you always had cuts, scratchers, and sores, it does seem they got infected easier and took longer to heal. The one I remember about snakes was they were shedding their old skin which made them almost blind and would strike at anything.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 14, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Boy, you picked the right time to talk about dog days. It’s been miserably hot the last couple of days.

    It also seems to me that the mosquitoes and dog pecker gnats get really bad during dog days.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 14, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Our Dad didn’t want us swimming during dog days. That was a trial when we were working in the ‘bugwoods’ and the swimming hole was just a short walk away.

    We have certainly be having summer the last two weeks or so. But last night we got rain that managed to stay together coming over the mountains from all the way up at Chattanooga. Unusual to get rain out of the northwest here in summer. Very windy and the yard is littered with leaves and limbs but thankfully no damage. I’m grateful for the rain as my garden was dry to at least 10″ deep.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    August 14, 2019 at 8:02 am

    My Mother never let us go swimming during Dog Days. In the 40’s and 50’s Polio was the thing we feared most. After the vaccine came to us I don’t remember her stopping us from swimming.

    • Reply
      Mary Anne Johnson
      August 14, 2019 at 10:50 am

      Dog days are a remembrance. Mother said not to swim in the Tygart River, but we did sneak down thru the field and swim. She couldn’t see us from the house so we were safe. Never had any difficulties from it.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    August 14, 2019 at 7:49 am

    I’ve always found that the worst part of Dog Days was that they ran right up to the start of school. That’s enough to make the most even tempered feller down right hateful.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 14, 2019 at 6:42 am

    I think more of hot and sticky for dog days, that’s the tradition I grew up with but I have to tell you I have a very small burn on the outside of my right pinkey finger that just doesn’t want to heal. Guess that’s Dog Days.

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