Many dog owners wonder if their furry friends dislike being out in the hot sun. Dogs, with their fur coats, may seem ill-equipped for sunbathing. However, the reality is more nuanced. There are several factors that determine whether dogs enjoy sunbathing or seek to avoid the sun.
Do All Dogs Dislike the Sun?
No, not all dogs inherently hate being out in the sun. Some breeds and individual dogs love lounging and playing in the sunshine. Dogs such as Labrador Retrievers were historically bred as water dogs for outdoor activities like hunting. These energetic, athletic breeds frequently enjoy swimming, running, and playing fetch under the summer sun. Small companion dogs like Chihuahuas have very different temperature preferences and needs.
Other high energy herding and working dog breeds like Australian Shepherds and Collies often relish the chance to be outdoors in nice weather. These breeds have thick double coats designed to insulate them from cold and heat. As long as they have access to water and shade, many of these dogs happily soak up the sunshine.
Factors That Influence Dog Sun Tolerance
There are several key factors that affect an individual dog’s enjoyment of sunbathing:
- Breed – Some breeds like Huskies and Malamutes are designed for cold climates. Others like Portuguese Water Dogs have single coats unsuited for excess heat.
- Coat – Dogs with thick double coats or long hair are better insulated against sun exposure than short haired breeds.
- Age – Senior dogs and puppies may struggle to regulate body temperature in the sun.
- Health – Dogs with heart conditions, breathing issues, or sun sensitivities may avoid the sun.
- Access to shade/water – Dogs can overheat without adequate shade and hydration.
- Temperature – Dogs prefer mild sunny days over highly hot and humid conditions.
- Duration – Laying in the sun for short periods is safer than prolonged sunbathing.
Knowing your individual dog’s preferences, needs, and limits is key to safe sun exposure.
Do Dogs Get Sunburned?
Yes, dogs can absolutely get sunburned, especially on areas with thinner fur coverage. Their skin contains melanocytes that produce melanin, which gives pigmentation. However, dogs have around 10 times fewer melanocytes than humans, making them more susceptible to sun damage.
Dogs with white or thin coats are at the highest risk. Areas like the nose, eyelids, belly, and ears are vulnerable. However, any exposed skin is susceptible to reddening, irritation, and sunburns. Melanoma skin cancer is also a risk in dogs from excessive sun exposure.
Signs of Sunburn in Dogs
Look for these signs of sunburn in dogs:
- Redness, irritation, inflammation, or blistering of skin
- Peeling or crusting skin
- Hair loss in sunburned areas
- Abnormal swelling
- Behavior changes like discomfort, itching, or increased licking
- Reluctance to go outside
- Head held low and body hunched
Sunburns can be very painful. Severely burned areas are at risk of infection. Seek veterinary care if your dog shows any signs of sunburn.
Sunburn Prevention and Treatment
You can protect your dog from sun damage by:
- Applying pet-safe sunscreen to vulnerable areas 30 minutes before sun exposure
- Allowing access to shaded rest areas and cool drinking water
- Avoiding excessive sun during peak hours
- Exercising caution with breeds prone to sunburn
- Investing in a lightweight, breathable dog shirt with UV protection
- Treating minor sunburns at home by gently washing with soap and water, applying aloe vera gel, and giving an anti-inflammatory like baby aspirin
- Taking your dog to the vet if you suspect a serious sunburn
Prevention is key to keep your dog safe in the sunshine. No dog should be left unattended in the sun.
Do Dogs Overheat in Hot Weather?
Yes, it is absolutely possible for dogs to suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke in hot weather. Unlike humans who sweat across most of our body to cool down, dogs only release heat by panting and through their paw pads. This makes them poorly equipped to manage excess heat.
Factors that put dogs at risk of overheating include:
- High temperatures and humidity – Heat stroke danger spikes above 77°F for vulnerable dogs.
- Poor ventilation – Enclosed spaces like cars can quickly overheat.
- Lack of water – Dehydration impairs temperature regulation.
- Obesity – Overweight dogs struggle to keep cool.
- Old or young age – Impaired regulation of body temperature.
- Thick coats – Insulates body heat.
- Brachycephalic breeds – Flat faces limit air intake.
- Athletic breeds – Produce excess body heat.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs
Watch for these early warning signs of overheating and move your dog to a cooler area immediately:
- Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
- Fast heart rate
- Mild weakness or stupor
- Staring or anxious expressions
Ignoring these initial signs of heat stress can lead to heat stroke as body temperature continues climbing above 104°F.
Heat Stroke Symptoms in Dogs
Heat stroke signs requiring emergency veterinary treatment include:
- Deep red or purple tongue and gums
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Collapsing with little to no energy or stupor
- Loss of consciousness
Rapid cooling and hydration are vital to prevent lasting organ damage and death from heat stroke. Estimate that permanent damage can set in after just 15 minutes.
Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs
Keep your dog safe in hot weather by:
- Ensuring ample shade and fresh water
- Avoiding exercise in high heat
- Never leaving in enclosed vehicles
- Monitoring closely for any signs of overheating
- Cooling with tepid (not cold) water
- Brushing out excess undercoat
- Keeping paws off hot asphalt
Prevention is truly key for avoiding heat stroke in dogs. Pay close attention on hot, humid days.
Do Dogs Need Sunscreen?
Dogs can absolutely benefit from the protection of dog-safe sunscreens. However, they do not necessarily need sunscreen in all conditions. Consider the following factors when deciding if sunscreen is recommended:
- Breed risk factors – Short haired, white coats, hairless
- Sun intensity – Time of day, location, and duration
- Area exposure – Pink noses, bellies, and eyelids prone to burning
- Existing sun damage – Past sunburn or precancerous growths
- Availability of shade – Seeking shade when possible is ideal
- Coat wetness – More UV ray penetration when fur is wet
For dogs at high risk of sunburn based on these criteria, sunscreen helps provide an additional layer of protection.
Choosing a Dog Sunscreen
The optimal sunscreen for dogs:
- Offers broad UVA/UVB protection
- Is free of zinc oxide or parabens
- Uses all natural ingredients suitable for dog skin pH
- Is made specifically for dogs
- Is fragrance and dye free
Avoid human sunscreens as the ingredients may be toxic if licked. Also ensure the formula does not contain any insect repellent.
Applying Dog Sunscreen
When using sunscreen on your dog:
- Rub over vulnerable nose, eyelids, ears, and balding areas
- Avoid contact with eyes and mouth
- Apply at least 30 minutes before sun exposure
- Reapply frequently, especially if wet
- Monitor for any skin irritation
- Use in combination with shade, rest, and hydration
Sunscreen should never be a dog’s sole protection against the sun. Use it as just one strategy alongside other safety precautions.
Are Dogs with Dark Fur at Risk of Overheating?
Dogs with dark colored fur do face a higher overheating risk in hot weather. Dark fur absorbs heat from sunlight rather than reflecting it. Studies using identical dog models covered in either black or white fur showed the black coats reached temperatures over 7°F hotter in the sun.
However, fur color alone does not wholly determine heat tolerance. Consider these other influencing factors:
|Thick double coats insulate heat
|Long hair traps heat near skin
|Obese dogs retain more heat
|Puppies and seniors less heat tolerant
|Little ventilation, water, or shade raises risk
So while dark colored dogs may be slightly more prone to overheating, breed, coat condition, health status, and environment arguably play a larger role.
Precautions for Dark Colored Dogs
Take these added precautions with black or dark furred dogs:
- Brush out shedded undercoats to prevent matting near skin
- Schedule exercise and sunny walks earlier or later in the day
- Limit time off-leash in direct sun exposure
- Provide ample shade, ventilation, and water
- Watch closely for early signs of overheating
- Feel fur and skin to check for excessive warmth
- Invest in a cooling jacket or vest for walks
While dark fur only modestly increases overheating risk, it warrants paying extra attention to heat management. Overall breed, health, and environmental factors are more influential.
How to Keep Dogs Cool in Hot Weather
Use these tips and strategies to help keep dogs safe and cool during hot weather:
Access to Water
- Always ensure ample fresh water is available both indoors and outdoors
- Change water frequently to keep it clean and appealing
- Try ice cubes or chilled bowls to encourage drinking
- Consider getting a portable travel water bowl
Preventing dehydration is critically important. Water is vital for regulating body temperature.
Shaded Rest Areas
- Allow access to covered patios, pergolas, garages, or dig cool burrows
- Set up canopy tents, umbrellas, tarps, or shade sails in yards
- Use shade cloths over outdoor kennels
- Paste reflective window film on sunny rooms
Shade provides relief from direct sun exposure and heat. Well-ventilated shade keeps air circulating.
Air Conditioning and Fans
- Ensure A/C units are well maintained for summer
- Arrange a dog-free “cool room” they can access
- Use circulating stand fans to improve airflow
- Mist with cool water in front of fan for evaporative cooling
Indoor climate control helps dogs beat the heat on hot days or take a break after time outdoors.
Grooming and Bathing
- Brush out heavy coats to prevent matting near skin
- Keep coats trimmed fairly short in summer
- Bathe dogs to remove dirt and dander trapping heat
Good coat care allows for better airflow to the skin and cooling.
- Take walks in early morning or evening when cooler
- Adjust intensity and duration based on conditions
- Ensure rest, shade, and water availability
- Avoid black asphalt that absorbs and radiates heat
- Watch closely for overheating signs
Vigorous exercise and playtime is safest when temperatures are milder. Monitor dogs closely during activity.
Leaving Dogs Home Alone
- Never leave dogs locked in vehicles in warm weather
- Ensure shade, breeze, and water in outside spaces
- Use window coverings to keep indoor areas cooler
- Consider using pet monitoring cameras to check in
- Hire pet sitters or dog walkers to take midday potty breaks
Dogs left home alone still require ample heat protections and contingency plans.
- Discuss heat management with your vet for senior dogs
- Monitor dogs on medications that may interfere with heat regulation
- Brush coats and trim hair around hot spots or skin folds prone to irritation
- Look into cooling vests and life jackets for dogs with conditions making them prone to overheating
Customized care helps keep dogs with health issues safe in the heat.
Many dogs enjoy lounging and playing in the sunshine. However, adequate shade, ventilation, grooming, and water are essential to prevent overheating. Know your dog’s limits. High temperatures coupled with humidity, sunlight, and lack of water can lead to heat exhaustion and life threatening heat stroke. Prevention is key. All dogs need protection against sunburns as well. Their minimal natural defenses require extra precaution. Stay alert to heat advisories. Adjust walks, activities, and access to climate controlled spaces based on weather conditions. With sensible precautions, most healthy dogs can safely enjoy the outdoors during hot weather. Keep a close eye on vulnerable senior, very young, overweight, or thick coated dogs. Customize care to support any health conditions as well. Proper preparation and vigilance helps dogs beat the heat.