Dogs have many things in common with their human owners, including a shared love for the sun. Fun in the sun is a great way to spend time with your dog, because they likely love to sunbathe as much as you do. 

Why does my dog lay in the sun?

Have you noticed that your dog has a favorite spot in the house in front of a door or window? Do they frequently lay in a square of sunshine, or want to go outside and soak up the rays? Turns out your dog has a few reasons for laying in the sun. 

It Feels Good

There’s nothing like the first warm day, when the sun is high in the sky and you can work on your tan. The sun on your skin feels good. It also feels nice to your dog. The warmth of the sun is comforting and relaxing. 

Temperature Regulation

When it’s cool, dogs will seek out warmth. We might grab a blanket or put on a coat, but dogs don’t have these options. Sun is one of the favorite ways a dog gets warm. This is why you’ll see your dog laying in the sun all year round. 

 Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for the health of your dog. Just like humans, dogs make vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. It’s stored in the body’s fatty tissues, as well as the liver. 

Your dog gets much of its Vitamin D through it’s diet. However, it needs to supplement dietary Vitamin D by making its own through sun exposure, just like humans do. 

When we get sun exposure, the UV rays break down oils in our skin creating Vitamin D. It’s then absorbed through the skin. The process is a bit different for dogs. Their fur keeps Vitamin D from being absorbed by the skin. Your dog licks the Vitamin D off its fur, and then absorbs it into the body. 

Vitamin D is essential for bone formation. It also contributes to muscle and nervous system health, and plays a role in the immune system. 

Why does my dog lay in the sun when it is hot?

When it’s hot, you’d expect your dog to search for shade. Why do they seek out the sun instead? 

Instinct

Dogs will soak up the sun all year round, even when the temperature is soaring. The main reason for this is instinct. Your dog lays in the sun instinctively because it’s necessary for Vitamin D production, and helps regulate their temperature. 

Why do dogs like to sleep in the sun?

Does your dog have a napping spot in the sunshine? Why do they sleep in the sun? 

Relaxing

Have you ever fallen asleep in the sun? The reason was probably that you were very relaxed. The sun is also very relaxing for your dog. The warmth of the sun can lull nearly animal to sleep. 

Regulates Body Temperature

Temperature regulation is important for dogs, just as it is for humans. You may have noticed that it’s difficult to sleep if you are too hot or too cold. The same is true for your dog. It’s easier for them to fall asleep when they are comfortably warm. 

Is it ok for dogs to sunbathe?

Dogs love to sunbathe, but is it good for them? How can you keep your dog safe in the sun? 

Moderation

Sunbathing is good for your dog’s comfort and health. However, moderation is important. Too much sun can cause several health issues. 

Sunburn

Dogs can get sunburn, just as people can. When your dog is enjoying the sun, keep an eye out for the signs of sunburn. The most obvious sign of sunburn is red skin. It will also be tender or painful when touched. 

Other signs include cracked or dry skin, hair loss, skin ulcers, and skin infection. Areas with less hair, including the nose, ear tips, and belly are most likely to burn. 

Skin Cancer

Dogs who get too much sunburn are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Just like humans, the risk is higher if your dog gets sunburn frequently. 

Coat Considerations

Dogs with light color coats are more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer than dogs with darker coats. Dogs with short hair are at a higher risk than dogs with long hair, because the hair offers sun protection. Hairless breeds are at the highest risk from the sun. 

Many owners will have long-haired dogs shaved in the summer to keep them cooler. Keep in mind that this puts them at a higher risk from sun exposure. It’s important to weigh the risks of excess sun and heat when deciding on your dog’s coat length.

Heat Stroke

Dogs don’t sweat as people do. Instead, they cool themselves by panting. If your dog gets too hot, they can have heat stroke. 

Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting and drooling. Their skin will be hot to the touch, and their heart rate will be higher than normal. Their gums and tongue will become bright red. 

Heatstroke can also cause behavioral changes. Many dogs will become hyperactive when experiencing heatstroke, which can make the situation worse. They may also lose their balance and coordination and become disoriented. 

Doggie Sunscreen

Yes, dogs can wear sunscreen too. Don’t use a sunscreen designed for humans. The zinc oxide that is common in sunscreen is toxic to dogs. Don’t allow your dog to lick you after you’ve applied sunscreen, and be sure to keep the bottle out of their reach. 

Apply sunscreen to the areas that are at risk of burning. This includes the nose, tips of the ears, belly, and groin area. If you can’t find doggie sunscreen, baby sunscreen will work in a pinch. However, you must be sure that the sunscreen you choose doesn’t contain zinc oxide. 

Shade and Water

To keep your dog safe and healthy, you should always provide access to shade and water. Your dog should move to the shade if they begin to overheat or get too much sun. 

However, as the owner, it is your responsibility to monitor your dog. Just like children, they can easily get caught up in fun and not realize when they’ve had enough. Even if your dog is in the shade, keep an eye out for signs of heatstroke on very hot days. 

How long should a dog be out in the sun?

How long your dog should be out in the sun depends on many factors. These include your dog’s coat, the temperature and UV level, and the activities your dog is engaged in. 

The Rule of Thumb

It’s often said, “If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.” This is also true when it comes to heat. If you are getting overheated, chances are your dog is as well. 

Your own comfort level is a great starting point, but keep in mind that your dog can be more or less heat tolerant than you are. In addition to monitoring your own comfort, keep a close eye on your dog when out in the sun for long periods. 

Look for signs of sunburn or heatstroke. If your dog begins to get fatigued, pants excessively, or becomes disoriented, it’s time to get them cool. It’s better to go outside for short periods that allow you and your dog to cool off than extended exposure. 

Size and Activity

Your dog’s size plays a role in their heat tolerance. Research has shown that smaller breeds of dog will have a higher body temperature than large dogs when exposed to the same conditions. This puts small breeds at a higher risk of heat stroke than large breeds. 

Activity level is also a factor. If you are sitting in a chair, you won’t get hot nearly as quickly as you will if you are going for a run. The same is true for your dog. Intense activity naturally raises body temperature. Exercise is great for your dog, but it should be limited to a 30 minute time period in extreme heat. Let your dog get water and cool off, and then resume the activity. 

Temperature and UV 

Temperature and UV exposure are the most important factors in how long your dog can safely be in the sun. The higher the temperature, the less time your dog should spend in the heat before cooling off. 

UV exposure is what causes sunburn. The rays are the strongest between 11-3, so limit exposure during this time. You may think that you don’t have to worry about sun exposure when it’s cloudy. The truth is that white clouds allow 90% of the sun’s rays to come through. It’s easier to get burned on cloudy days because you aren’t as aware of the sun. 

Never Leave Your Dog in the Car

If you bring your dog alone on car trips, remember that you should never leave your furry friend in the car unattended. A car can get up to 123 degrees inside within an hour, which is a dangerous temperature for your dog. 

The sun comes through the windows and warms the air, causing the greenhouse effect. Some owners believe that rolling down windows is enough to keep the car safe. However, this doesn’t circulate enough air to cool the car. 

Mind the Sidewalk

Another heat consideration is the sidewalk. At 87 degrees, asphalt or pavement can reach a dangerous 143 degrees. Dog’s paws can burn with one minute of exposure when the pavement temperature is 123 degrees. 

Just like with heat and sun exposure, you are a good barometer for your dog. If it’s too hot for your feet, it’s likely too hot for your dog’s paws. Light-colored sidewalks don’t get as hot as black pavement. Light sidewalks are usually about 10 degrees cooler than asphalt under similar conditions. However, when the temperature is 80 degrees or above, the sidewalk can easily reach temperatures high enough to burn your dog’s paws. 

Dog socks or booties can protect your pet’s paws from the heat. Paw wax is sometimes used, but it is designed to protect paws from ice, not heat. You can also walk your dog early or late in the day, when the temperatures and UV are lower. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.