I do love to lie in the sunshine – there’s something about the warmth of the sun which makes me feel relaxed, and if I spot a ray of sunshine that is shining through the window onto the kitchen floor, that’s where you’ll find me!
WHY DO DOGS LIKE TO LAY IN THE SUN?
It makes me feel good! But there are other important things that are good for my well-being, too, when I’m sunbathing:
- Dogs need to keep our body temperature around 101.5 °F (38.6 °C) and we normally do this by moving around if we get too cold. Laying in the sun can help us maintain our temperature without wasting energy.
- Did you know that a healthy circadian rhythm is essential for a dog’s good health? It controls patterns of brainwave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and many other biological/biochemical activities over the day/night cycle. So, just like humans, dogs can benefit from sunshine, as long as exposure is controlled.
- I’m nearly 8 years old (in doggie years that’s 55!) and I’m beginning to get achy joints, but laying in the sun helps me feel more comfortable. My human also makes sure I have good walks every day which also helps keep me fit and my joints working.
- I love a good beach day – there’s something about swimming in the sea that feels so exciting. But feeling cold and wet afterwards? Nobody enjoys that! Lying in the sun after a nice little swim is sure to make me feel warm, snuggly and relaxed.
HEAT-RELATED PROBLEMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Without realizing, dogs can get too much of a good thing, so we rely on humans to look out for the following when the weather is lovely and sunny:
Just like humans, dogs can get dehydrated, we can overheat, and we can get sunburn! This happens mostly to dogs that have very short coats like Dalmatians, Whippets and, of course, breeds with little hair, so they have to be very careful and only lie in the sun for very short periods of time.
Areas on my body which my human takes particular care of, and which are most exposed to sunshine are:
- on the bridge of my nose
- the tips of my ears
- skin around my lips, groin, and my inner thighs
. . . and anywhere else on my body where pigmentation is light.
She buys special sun protection for dogs but makes sure it doesn’t get in my eyes – ouch, that would hurt! She also keeps a close eye on me for a little while to make sure I don’t lick it off – as if I would! She also checks that it does not contain zinc oxide, which is toxic for us dogs.
My doggie walking friend has a short nose – he’s a Bulldog – and he doesn’t cope well in the heat. He can have breathing problems sometimes and if he gets too hot he struggles to get his breath. If you’ve got another breed with a short nose, like a Pug, a Boston terrier, Shih tzu, a Chow Chow, Mastiff, Boxer, or a Pekingese, make sure you keep them out of the hot sun and only walk them in the early morning or in the evening when it’s cooler.
Although I can doze off for quite a while in the sun, my human keeps an eye on me; she won’t let me lie there for too long and she makes me move into a shaded spot.
She also makes sure I have access to plenty of water to ensure I don’t get dehydrated. She even takes a bottle of water and a bowl when we go out for a walk in the summer months to make sure I have plenty of fluids.
But we don’t go out in the middle of the day when it’s very hot – that would be silly! Importantly, she never leaves me in the car when it’s a hot (or even warm) day. We all know how dangerous that can be for a dog!
This can be very serious and happens when dogs get too hot and we cannot lower our temperature naturally. If left untreated, it can lead to organ failure or seizures – dogs have even been known to die of heatstroke – and that makes me sad.
Dogs that are particularly at risk are those that are overweight, young, elderly, flat-faced, giant-breed, and thick-coated dogs, and they can get heat stroke even from just sitting out in hot weather.
That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of heatstroke, including panting, drooling, bright red gums or vomiting/diarrhea.
If you see any of these signs, it’s important to call the vet immediately.
WE KNOW WHEN WE’VE HAD ENOUGH SUN
Although I do love laying in the sun, I know when I’ve had enough and even if I’m enjoying my doze, I will get up and move to a shadier spot to cool off. Quite often I’ll go and lay down on the cool tiles on the kitchen floor.
It can be quite uncomfortable wearing a coat all the time, and we can’t sweat through our body like humans can – but we have other ways of keeping cool that humans don’t! I am sure you’ve seen us panting? Well, that is a dog’s way of sweating and cooling down – we can also release heat through our paw-pads and our nose!
After a long winter, humans and dogs alike are pleased to see the sunshine and we should take advantage of it as much as we can – with caution, of course.