It’s true to say that most of us enjoy the warmth of the sun on our skin. When it’s a clear day with blue skies and the sun is beating down, it makes us feel happy. Millions of people flock to beaches on sunny days or soak up the welcome sunshine in gardens or parks.
And on hot days, we can shed layers of clothing to compensate. When it gets too hot, we seek shelter from the blazing heat in the shade or air-conditioned buildings.
But why do dogs like to lay in the sun? After all, most of them are covered with thick fur! Don’t they feel too hot? Is it bad for their health?
What do they get out of it?
Read on to find the answers…
Why Do Dogs Like Laying In The Sun?
Because they like how it feels!
Just like us, the feeling of warmth makes our dogs feel good. Imagine the sensation of the sun’s rays on your skin and how it makes you feel. Science has shown how sunshine encourages the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone that stabilizes our moods and aids a sense of happiness and well-being.
Serotonin is a natural antidepressant. You may have heard of a condition called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that causes depression and anxiety in the fall and winter seasons. This occurs because of a lack of sunlight, and doctors often prescribe light therapy to boost serotonin levels.
Dogs produce this hormone, too. Most dog owners will have seen their pooch picking out a favorite spot in the house, yard, or garden that’s in direct sunlight where they stretch out and take a nap. You can see how relaxed they are, just soaking up those rays. And as the sun moves across the sky, they’ll often get up and move to another sunny spot.
Why do dogs like to lay in the sun? Because it makes them happy!
Sunlight also helps make melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythms, among other things. After sunbathing, your furry friend will have a better sleep cycle and will be more rested.
But the health benefits don’t stop there!
Sunlight helps the body create vitamin D, which is usually stored in the liver and fatty tissue. This essential nutrient regulates calcium and phosphorus levels, both of which are needed for healthy teeth and bone formation. Phosphorus also plays a role in the way fats and carbs are used, as well as helping the body grow and repair itself. Calcium also keeps muscles moving and aids the nerves in sending signals between the brain and the body.
Why do dogs like to lay in the sun? Because it is good for them!
Now, it’s unlikely that our canine friends understand the facts or the science behind it, but they know that sunlight makes them feel better. And if something feels good, they’ll keep doing it.
Why Do Old Dogs Like To Lay In The Sun?
Photo from: @tony_is_long
We’ve seen what the health benefits are, but we can add another here for our elderly pooches. As they age, dogs often suffer from joint pain.
Arthritis can make dogs very stiff and uncomfortable. Laying in the warmth of the sun brings welcome relief to stiff and sore joints, and older dogs tend to sleep longer, spending as much time in the sun as possible. Failing this, they’ll lay in front of a fireplace or heater.
When there’s not much sun around, you can help your senior dog by investing in a heated pet bed, heating pad, or heat lamp.
Why do dogs like to lay in the sun? Because it warms up their old bones and relieves pain.
Why Do Black Dogs Like To Lay In The Sun?
We’ve singled out black dogs here because, as everyone knows, black absorbs heat. So why would a black dog lay in the sun? Surely they’d get too hot under all that thick fur?
Well, yes, they do. And they lay in the sun for exactly the same reasons as for any other colored dog.
However, we should make it clear that not all dogs do this. Some dogs prefer the shade and will avoid strong sunlight. Others will make the most of any opportunity and will sunbathe whenever possible. Just like humans, all dogs are different!
The problem with black dogs sunbathing is that their body temperature rises much quicker. Too much sun can cause heatstroke, which is a serious matter.
Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature reaches 106°F (41°C) or above. When this happens, the dog’s natural cooling system fails, making them very sick, as the nervous and circulatory systems break down. In many cases, this is fatal if not treated in time.
If you catch your dog at the initial stages, known as heat exhaustion, you can help by moving them into the shade or an air-conditioned room and giving them cool water (not ice cold!). However, if they reach full-blown heatstroke, you should contact your vet immediately.
Dogs usually regulate their body temperature by panting. They also have sweat glands, but these are in their paws and nose.
Their coats also play a part in this system, keeping them warm in the winter and providing protection from the heat in summer. This is why double-coated dogs shed, to thin out the coat and allow air to become trapped in the fur, which insulates them against the heat. Their coats also protect them from harmful UV rays.
This is why shaving a long-haired dog is rarely a good idea, as it interferes with the natural cooling system and exposes them to the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. It’s wise to take extra care with hairless breeds and dogs whose coats are regularly clipped short, such as Poodles.
If your pooch seems to be suffering because of the heat, make sure they have access to a cool, shaded area. You can stand them in a bath or pool of cool water or even splash cool water onto their chest.
Always make sure that your dog has plenty of water on hand!
Why do dogs like to lay in the sun? Whatever their color, they get something out of it, but some dog breeds are more vulnerable to the hazards than others. Black or dark-colored dogs are more at risk of overheating.
Is It OK For My Dog To Sunbathe?
The honest answer is yes and no!
It’s fine for a dog to lay in the sun for a while. In fact, it’s good for them. We’ve seen how it boosts serotonin, helps produce vitamin D, as well as aids the absorption of vitamin D into the body.
However, dogs don’t handle this in the same way as humans. When UVB rays from sunlight hit our skin, it causes oils to break down, creating vitamin D3, which is absorbed into the skin.
This process is different for dogs, as the vitamin D stays on their fur. It is only absorbed into the dog’s body if they lick their fur, which is something you might have observed after your pooch has been out in the sun.
The chemical process involved in creating vitamin D is only possible through ultraviolet light, more specifically, UVB rays, which are usually only present when the sun is at its strongest, around the middle of the day.
So, to get the benefit of vitamin D, your dog will need to lay in the sun for about thirty minutes sometime around midday, and then they’ll need to lick their fur! Although they only need small amounts of this vitamin, it is essential that they get an adequate dose. Some pet parents give their dogs supplements, but many experts advise against this. Vitamin D poisoning and deficiency are equally as bad. Your dog should be getting most of its nutrition from its food, using sunlight to top up on vitamin D.
Bear in mind that UVB rays can be filtered through your windows, so your dog will need to lay outside to get the full benefit.
The next thing to be aware of is the amount of time your pooch spends in the sun. Ideally, it should be no longer than thirty minutes, but it depends on your local environment. If you experience a lot of hot weather and high temperatures, you should monitor your dog’s sun exposure very carefully.
Dogs can easily overheat or become dehydrated if they spend long periods of time sleeping in direct sunlight. Neither of these is good news for the dog and will make them seriously ill.
Brachycephalic breeds, such as the Pug, Bulldog, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Bull Mastiff, etc., have short muzzles and flat faces. This means that they lack an essential part of the natural cooling system that other breeds have. They also suffer from breathing problems, so overheating is a major issue for them.
Also, if your dog has a clipped or shaved coat, you need to take care that they don’t get sunburn. You can help by applying a dog-safe sunscreen that will protect them from the UV rays. Never use human sunscreen as this usually contains zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs and can be fatal.
What Have We Learned?
At the start, we asked, why do dogs like to lay in the sun?
We now know that it’s for these reasons:
• They like the feeling of warmth.
• Sunlight increases the feel-good hormone serotonin.
• Sunlight helps regulate their sleeping pattern through the production of melatonin.
• It boosts vitamin D, but dogs need to lay outside in the middle of the day for the process to work. They ingest the vitamin by licking their fur.
• Shaved or clipped dogs are more at risk, so extra care should be taken. Shaving a long-haired dog is not a good idea, but a slight trim should be okay.
• Sunshine eases joint pain in elderly dogs.
• Spending too long in the sun can cause skin cancer, dehydration, and heatstroke.
• Brachycephalic breeds can overheat much quicker than those with long snouts.
In the end, you know your dog best. All dog breeds are different, each with its own quirks and characteristics. Some are known for their intelligence, but all dogs can act unwisely at times. Some will lay in the sun for a while, then move when they feel they’ve had enough. Others may not be so wise and will doze in direct sunlight for far too long.
Therefore, it’s up to us to monitor the amount of sunlight our furry friends are exposed to. Of course, this isn’t always possible, especially if your dog is left home alone during the day.
Whether you’re home or not, you should always ensure that your dog has the option of moving to a cool, shaded area, away from the sun. You should always make sure that they have cool, fresh water on hand. It’s a good idea to have two or three bowls around the place, just in case they finish one or manage to spill it.
Dogs are pretty creative and will seek other water sources, such as the toilet bowl, a puddle, or a fish tank! Clearly, none of these sources will do them much good.
One final warning: swimming is a good way of cooling off in the sun, and if you’re lucky enough to own a pool, your dog could take a dip. However, you should always be present. Allowing your dog access to an uncovered pool while you are out is asking for trouble, even if you believe your dog is a good swimmer. Your pooch could get into difficulties and be unable to get out of the pool. And if they are already suffering from the effects of heat exhaustion or heatstroke, this could spell disaster.
So, we’ve learned why dogs like to lay in the sun, and now we can help them enjoy it safely!