Most dogs enjoy resting in the sun and appear to gravitate to a sunny location in the house or garden. Have you ever wondered why dogs enjoy sunbathing? Or whether it's appropriate for your dog to spend time in the sun?
While we can't read their thinking, we can infer that dogs sunbathe for the same reason we do: it feels wonderful to relax in the sun. Dogs appear to love the warm, calming sensation of sunlight on their skin.
Sunlight helps to control a dog's circadian rhythm. Melatonin levels rise when it gets dark, signaling that it's time for a dog to sleep, and fall in response to light, suggesting that it's time for a dog to wake up.
Although vitamin D has been dubbed "the sunshine vitamin," dogs, unlike humans and many other animals, are inefficient at synthesizing it in their skin from sun exposure.
Sunburn can be caused by UV rays from the sun, especially in areas where a dog's coat is scanty, such as around the nose, ears, and eyes. White-coated dogs with unpigmented skin are also at risk.
Excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancer in dogs. UV radiation exposure is linked to some types of skin tumors, including hemangiomas, hemangiosarcomas, and squamous cell carcinomas.
On hot days, it is possible for dogs to overheat if they are permitted to sunbathe for an extended period of time; nevertheless, the vast majority of dogs will naturally move out of the sun when they begin to feel too hot.
Heat stroke is especially dangerous in brachycephalic (flat-faced dog breeds). These breeds have a problem known as brachycephalic airway syndrome. Affected dogs have difficulty breathing and cannot effectively cool themselves.
Even if they have access to shady areas, brachycephalic dogs should never be left outside on a hot day. Heat stroke is also more likely in overweight dogs, canines with thick coats, and large breeds.