Why Do Dogs Lay in the Sun?

why do dogs lay in the sun

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Like most dog lovers and dog owners, you might have noticed certain strange behaviors from your furry friend. Some dogs have a tendency to dig frantically around the yard, others may bark and howl inordinately at humans and at objects. They may also spin in place, chase their own tails or even ear their own waste. Here we would be answering the question “why do dogs lay in the sun?”.

One of the most common behaviors you may have observed without understanding the reason why is sun bathing. The thing is, there’s more to dogs laying in the sun than just the warm, soothing feeling sun bathing usually induces.

Many of us have seen dogs pant and gulp water thirstily after a run or on a hot day so seeing them lie in the sun for long periods of time may seem unreasonable since they heat up so fast and easily. However, just like humans, dogs also get Vitamin D from the sun.

Vitamin D helps to ward off diseases and combat depression. Vitamin D also produces serotonin, an important hormone that serves the purpose of keeping humans and dogs relaxed, inducing a generally happy and focused feeling. Laying in the sun also has anti-bacterial effects on dogs so in the long run, the tendency of dogs to lie in the sun isn’t devoid of purpose.

The root of the behavior- why do dogs enjoy laying in the sun?

There are many factors that induce dogs to lay in the sun, some of which are:


Sometimes, when dogs need a break, they try to find a patch of sunlight they can lie in. Just like in humans, the sun induces restfulness in dogs.

Lying in the sun makes us feel relaxed and calms us down. Dogs feel the same way too. If you happen to find your dog just lying down in the sun, he might just be trying to rest.


Dogs also like sitting in the sun for warmth. The warmth of the sun feels good on their skin. It helps to regulate their body temperature, this is especially useful in colder seasons. Older dogs and dogs that suffer from joint pain also derive comfort from the sun because it helps to reduce their pain.


Sunlight has been known to increase serotonin levels in humans and dogs alike. Serotonin is a hormone produced in the brain that incites feelings of focus and relaxation. The hormone makes dogs and humans feel happier.

Microbial Effect

Apart from making them feel less depressed, sunlight has anti-bacterial effects on dog’s skin to keep them healthy and germ free. Sunlight has the ability to kill off yeast and bacteria that tend to grow on dogs, preventing any prevalent bacteria from spreading even more.

Is it bad for dogs to lay in the sun?

Generally, laying in the sun is advantageous for dogs. We know it induces the production of serotonin, we know it keeps them warm and we know it helps them get rid of harmful bacteria and microbes and prevent their spread.

Dogs are known to have very good instincts. They instinctively know it is important for them to get enough sunlohj6.

Your dog(s) should be allowed to lay in the sun if they want to. You only need to ensure that they have enough clean water close by so they can remain hydrated. There should also be a shady spot closeby so they can cool off once they’re done.

Try to keep an eye your dogs when they are sunbathing so they don’t get exposed for too long. Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer and sunburns in dogs. Some dogs are a lot more susceptible to sunburn than other dogs especially the hairless breeds and the ones with thin coats. Those that have  white/light colored fur are also at risk.

You should ensure that your dog always has access to shade. You can also get them dog safe sunscreen to prevent sunburns. Avoid using human sunscreen because it contains compounds like zinc oxide that are harmful to pets.

Just like in humans, the risk of getting skin cancer is greatly increased the longer dogs spend in the sun without share or suncreen.

Potential dangers of dogs laying in the sun for too long

Being exposed to sunlight excessively can lead to health complications for dogs. You need to know these conditions so you can work towards preventing them.

Heat Exhaustion

Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat to regulate their body temperatures. They pant instead. While panting helps them regulate their body temperature, it doesn’t completely erase the risk of overheating.

Heat exhaustions symptoms are relatively easy to note. Your dog could begin to pant excessively, drool, be excessively thirsty, dizzy, lethargic, vomit or have muscle tremors.

If your dog begins to show these signs, get him/her into a shade and provide clean, fresh water to drink.

You can prevent heat exhaustion by ensuring that your dog isn’t left outside for very long periods or left inside a parked car.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is condition that is caused when a dog’s body temperature gets to 106°F (41°C) or above. It is very dangerous because it causes the internal cooling system of your dog to begin to fail which in turn causes other parts of your dog’s internal body system to fail including circulation and brain functions.

Heat stroke may cause your dog to vomit or develop diarrhoea with bloody stools. It could also cause uneven walking, seizures or a complete collapse.

Heat stroke usually occurs right after heat exhaustion and unlike heat exhaustion, it doesn’t succumb to home remedies. The best thing to do is to get your dog to the vet immediately.

Skin Cancer

Like humans, overexposure to sunlight causes skin cancer in dogs despites their being covered in fur.

Dogs are susceptible to many types of skin cancer. Breeds like Dobermans and Scottish Terriers are some of the ones most easily affected by melanomas of the benign kind. Basset hounds and Collies are more likely to fall victim to the malignant kinds.

Watch out for abnormal patches on the skin of your dog as they may be signs of skin cancer. The patches may be raised or colored depending on the specific type of cancer. The patches may also appear inflated or wartlike.

If you suspect that your dog has skin cancer, you should get home to the vet immediately for a diagnosis.

Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is classified as a pro-hormone (it is less of a vitamin than a hormone) although it is still classified as a vitamin because dogs are unable to absorb calcium without its help. It is classified as a hormone because the body of our dogs manufactures it as a direct response to sunlight.

It is stored in the body’s fatty tissues and in the liver. It is useful in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus in the dog’s body. It is necessary for bone formation as well as nerve and muscle control.

The science behind it

When we lay in the sun, the sun’s rays help our bodies break down the Vitamin D creating oils present in our skin. Direct sunlight causes our skin to react to the ultraviolet rays to break down its chemical bonds and create Vitamin D3. Following this breakdown, it is then absorbed again into to the body and blood stream by dermal absorption. The whole process is completed in 15-20 minutes.

The Vitamin D converting chemical is also present in dogs. However, because of their fur, vitamin DEAR cannot be properly absorbed into their body again so it remains on their fur until they lick themselves and ingest it orally.

Dogs are capable of creating Vitamin D themselves under direct sunlight but the absorption is incomplete and inefficient. Most of their Vitamin D is gotten through their diet.


Now you know that lying in the sun is a perfectly normal behavior for your dog. Not only does it induce serotonin production, keeping your dog feeling relaxed and happy, it also keeps them warm and restful.

While lying in the sun has all these advantages, you also need to watch your dogs closely and ensure that they do not get exposed to the sun for too long as it can lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion or even skin cancer which could be fatal. Be sure to provide clean, fresh water so your dog remains hydrated. You should ensure that cool, shady areas are close by.

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