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Sunbathing: Why Dogs Love It As Much As Humans

At A Glance

Dogs sunbathing are a sight to behold. Like us, our furry friends love laying down under the sun and soaking up some vitamin D. It is incredibly beneficial for them.

But remember, like all things, it has a few pros and cons. Like:

  • Sunbathing can boost the immune system, reduce the chances of infections, and improve coat health.
  • Overdoing it, however, can lead to overheating, sunstrokes, and even sunburns.

Last Updated on: Aug 25, 2023

Dogs love to sunbathe just as much as we humans during the summers. We do it for a healthy glow and warmth. But why do dogs love lying in the sun?

The answer is simple. No, it’s not a tan. It’s because they find it warm and relaxing! Dogs have a higher body temperature than humans, and soaking up some vitamin D can do them wonders, especially if they live in cold temperatures.

Moreover, sunshine is rejuvenating. It can help our furry friends feel relaxed after a long playdate. But the list of reasons doesn’t end there.

custom oil-painted dog portraits by Poshtraits

What Do Dogs Get Out of Sunlight?

Dogs like sunbathing for many reasons. Firstly: it helps keep a dog’s body temperature up on a cool day. And secondly: it helps them dry up quickly when wet. But it also has several other health benefits we don’t usually consider.

They are:

It Reduces Stress

why does my dog lay in the sun - it reduces stress

Dogs hate being cooped up all day. They especially hate it when they’re cooped up in a dark, dingy place. Like all living beings, dogs require a certain amount of exposure to sunlight to keep their moods up.

A few hours in the sun can boost serotonin. In fact, a study shows that low serotonin levels cause seasonal affective disorders in humans and animals, and it has also been linked to aggression in some dogs.

As Dr. Ihor Basko, a veterinarian, states, “When you don’t get enough light exposure, you could have a grumpy dog, one with a low-grade headache, who is anxious or irritable.”

This is because a lack of sunlight causes excess production of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can eventually lead to depression. Essentially, laying in the sun makes your dog feel good.

It Boosts Vitamin D Levels

There’s a reason why Vitamin D is included as a supplement in almost every dog food. Like humans, vitamin D is crucial for a dog’s development. However, along with a balanced diet, the sun is the next best source of vitamin D.

Vitamin D also helps absorb calcium and phosphorus, which keep the bones and teeth strong, build muscle, and contribute to nerve control.

It Helps Boost Hair Growth

Light-responsive alopecia is seen in some dogs living in areas with low sunlight. It causes dogs to lose hair in patches. Sunbathing, however, can reverse it.

It is believed that sunlight can boost the pineal gland’s production. Even increasing melatonin levels by sunbathing can help.

Gets Rid of Dead Hair

Sunlight can also help trigger a dog’s hair growth cycle by causing the old fur to shed and spurring the growth of new hairs. This gives them shinier, healthier coats.

Boosts the Immune System

A few hours of sunlight daily can also reduce a dog’s likelihood of catching a virus. Stable vitamin D levels boost the immune system, while a lack of sunlight could increase the chances of catching frequent colds.

“Sunshine can kill the extraneous yeast and bacteria that can grow in wounds”, veterinarian Dr. Ihor Basko says. This is also why you may notice most old dogs lying in the sun, as it relieves pain caused by arthritis and other wounds.

Too Much Sunlight – The Risks

why do dogs like to lay in the sun - too much sunlight – the risks

Most dogs will seek shade once they’re warm enough. However, when there’s no shade, it could be dangerous for it to stay out for too long. While there is no general time limit as such, it is recommended that dogs spend no more than 30 minutes in the sun.

The risks associated with prolonged exposure include the following:

Dehydration and Heat Stroke

Some dogs, especially those with thick coats, are more prone to dehydration or sun strokes. To avoid this, ensure your dog gets plenty of water and takes frequent breaks.

The risk of heat stroke is exceptionally high in all flat-faced dog breeds, such as pugs. Their pushed-in noses have trouble breathing, and, as a result, they cannot cool themselves down as quickly. Some signs to look out for include weakness, hypersalivation, or falling unconscious.


Dogs with short, thin coats or hairless breeds are more vulnerable to harmful UV ray damage. This makes them more susceptible to sunburn, especially in areas like the stomach, snout, and around their eyelids.

Consider applying a layer of dog-safe sunscreen to prevent these injuries. Take note, though, not all human sunscreens are recommended for dogs, as they contain zinc oxide, which could be toxic.

Skin Cancer

In the worst possible case, prolonged exposure to the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer. Hairless breeds, dogs with thin coats, and even white or light-coloured dogs are especially susceptible to skin cancer.

While this is an extremely unlikely outcome, it is worth considering, especially if your dog spends long periods out when the sun is at its peak. If you live in hot areas, plan its walks during the mornings or evenings when the sun isn’t as intense.

When Should You Be Worried?

The signs that a dog is overheating can manifest in different ways, depending on the thickness of your dog’s coat and certain pre-existing conditions.

If you notice any signs of sun damage, such as redness or swelling on the skin, make sure you get it checked by a veterinarian. It will also help if you keep your dog away from the sun for a bit.

Labored breathing coupled with excessive panting is another sign to look out for, as it may signal issues with cardiovascular function and point to heat stroke. Glazed eyes, weakness, and a bright red tongue are other symptoms you may need to check with a veterinarian.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

dog enjoying the sun

Dogs love laying in the sun; there’s no stopping them. In fact, it’s good for their health as long as they’re not lying for more than 30 mins. Additionally, ensure they have enough water and access to shade, that you apply some sunscreen, and keep their coats neatly trimmed in the hot summer months.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is It Okay for Dogs to Lay in the Sun?

Dogs laying in the sun is more than okay. In fact, vets recommend letting your dog soak up sunlight for at least 30 minutes daily.

Sunshine, while being a great source of vitamin D, also improves moods and boosts immune function. But ensure your dog isn’t overdoing it, and you should be okay.

Why Do Dogs Stand in the Sun?

If your dog is looking for sunny spots to stand in, it may be feeling cold. Alternatively, it could be suffering from an ache or pain.

Dogs are more adept at gauging the weather than humans, so even if it seems too hot, don’t worry – dogs can usually tell when they have had enough.

Why Does My Dog Like to Lay in the Sun and Pant?

Dogs pant to regulate their internal temperature. They do it after long walks when playing with their humans or lying in the sun. Usually, panting is not a cause for concern.

However, you should be concerned if other signs, like dehydration and heatstroke, accompany it. Look out for signs like labored breathing or a raised heartbeat.



Meet Sheryl, a dedicated pet mom with over 20 years of hands-on experience as a pet mom to various dog breeds, from German Shepherds to Shih Tzus. Join her on her pet-centric journey as she aims to empower pet owners with practical tips and guidance. With her experience and passion for pets, she strives to make a positive impact in the lives of pets and their devoted owners.