Why Do Dogs Like to Lay in The Sun & Sunbathe?

why do dogs like to lay in the sun

Our dogs never cease to amaze us. In many ways, they act in very similar ways to their owners, often enjoying the simple pleasures of life when given the chance. For example, just like us, dogs like to lay in the sun on hot days and sunbathe.

It not uncommon to see a dog lying in your yard or on a hot pavement in July and August, soaking up the rays without a care in the world.

But why you find your dog laying in sun panting? It makes no sense they would like the heat, as it doesn’t appear to be comfortable or safe for them.

Well, I decided to find out the reasons that dogs like to sunbathe on a hot day, even if it does make them pant uncontrollably. Here’s what I found out.

Why do dogs like to lay in the sun? Dogs like to sunbathe and lay in the hot sun because it’s feels good. Whilst it promotes vitamin D, dogs can get sunstroke and sunburn, and other health risks from sunbathing to proceed with caution.

But why do dogs enjoy lying in the sun so much? Is it purely because they enjoy the warm feeling, or is there more to this interesting behavior?

In addition, is it safe to let your dog to sunbathe for long periods of time, or does it increase the risk of them developing health issues? Can we allow our dogs to lay in the sun all day?

There’s a lot to it. Keep reading for a more in-depth analysis of dogs sunbathing, the health risks, vitamin D benefits, and when you might have to intervene.

why do dogs sunbathe
Why dogs sunbathe isn’t a great secret: because they like it! (Image licensed via Storyblocks.com).

Why do dogs sunbathe and sleep in the sun?

The reason dogs sunbathe is because the sensation feels good. Just like us, they enjoy the feeling of the sun on their fur and skin and this can go a long way in improving their mood or in helping them to relax.

What’s not to like?

This is why so many dogs fall asleep in the sun on a hot day or in areas of the house, yard, or garden. Sleeping in the sun and sunbathing can also help dogs to regulate their body temperatures, which helps them to warm up when they are feeling cold or under the weather.

But it’s not just hot summer months that dog’s like to sunbathe. Even during colder months, dogs will seek out a place in the house to sunbathe during winter. Up on windowsills being a particular favorite for small dogs.

When it comes to larger breeds, they often love to bask in the direct sunlight that comes through glass doors or large windows.

Likewise, if you own a dog who is particularly fond of laying in the sun, you will likely be delighted whenever they decide to join you in the yard for an impromptu sunbathing session.

As strange as this sounds, sunbathing with your dog can bolster feelings of companionship and can be a good way for you to strengthen your bond with them.

Additionally, dogs will often stay close to their owner whilst they laze around so that they feel safe. Essentially, this provides them with an extra set of eyes that can keep a watch out for any potential dangers.

Is it okay for dogs to sunbathe on a hot day?

Expanding further on these benefits, the sun also promotes the formation of vitamin D in dogs. This nutrient is just as essential for canine’s health as it is for us humans (no doubt you have heard of how important vitamin D is for your health) and is responsible for helping them to absorb calcium and phosphorus into their bodies.

However, do take precautions, and set up a dog bed with a shade like this one on Amazon, also shown below.

The minerals described above are important as they help to strengthen a dog’s bones, preventing them from getting injuries and promoting faster healing if they do damage their bones. Vitamin D is especially important for puppies, who need this vitamin to grow and form their bones correctly.

Likewise, vitamin D can have several other benefits for dogs. According to several online sources, good levels of vitamin D can help prevent them from getting heart disease, skin and coat problems, joint inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, infections, dental issues, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and even cancer.

Bearing all this in mind, it is not hard to understand why sunbathing can be extremely beneficial for our dog’s health.

How do dogs absorb vitamin D?

Dogs absorb vitamin D from the sun in a unique and interesting way. To further expand on this, we have to first take a look at how the process works in humans. When a human being is exposed to direct sunlight, the oil in their skin reacts to the UV rays and breaks down the chemical bonds.

This, in turn, creates vitamin D3 which is then absorbed back into the body. From here it enters our bloodstream, with the whole process taking around 15 to 20 mins before it is fully completed.

Handy Hint: Whilst dogs will get Vitamin D from the sun, it’s not enough and they will need more through their diet.

Although dogs do have the same ability to absorb vitamin D in this way, they often struggle to do this because of their fur, which almost entirely blocks the vitamin from being absorbed into their skin.

Instead, vitamin D3 is formed on their fur, with dogs licking and cleaning themselves so that the vitamin is ingested orally. In fact, as a dog owner, you have probably seen your dog do this many times in the past and not paid much attention.

However, it is important to note that a large chunk of vitamin D derives from a dog’s diet, and thus the sun is not the only source of this vital nutrient for our pups. Additionally (as we will further expand on below), large amounts of exposure to the sun can sometimes be very dangerous for dogs.

Nevertheless, with a healthy amount of both vitamin D in their diet and safe exposure to the sun’s rays, our beloved dog’s lives can only benefit and improve.

dog lies in sun and pants
Our dog loves to get in the sun, but will start panting so we don’t let him sunbathe for long.

Is it safe for dogs to lay in the sun?

Despite having fur, dogs are susceptible to many of the same issues overexposure to the sun can have on us. They can get a tan, they can get burned, and then even get serious sunstroke. In addition, increased exposure to the sun can cause your dog to suffer from nasty sunburn and severe dehydration.

If your dog sits in the sun and pants excessively then there’s a very real chance of sunstroke and sunburn.

If you own a dog with a short or thin coat, or with white or light-colored fur, then they are at an increased risk of getting sunburnt.

Common areas that typically burn in dogs are their ears, nose, belly, and depending on the breed of the dog, their eyelids, or the areas directly around their mouths.

To help prevent your pup from being sunburnt, you should make sure you provide them with plenty of shaded areas in your yard. You can also get dog sunblock on Amazon.

Although not true for all dogs, most will seek out shade when they are at risk of burning or if they are overheating. If you own a dog who is particularly at risk of getting sunburnt, you can limit the amount of time they are exposed to the sun during the hotter summer months.

Additionally, there are dog-safe sunscreens which you can easily find in pet stores or on the web. It is important to note that you should never use a sunscreen designed for humans on your dog, as these contain ingredients that are extremely toxic to them.

As previously mentioned, dehydration can also prove a problem for dogs, especially those who like to spend a lot of time sunbathing.

Dogs with heavy or thick coats, such as Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Labradors, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands, are at most risk of getting dehydrated, however, any breed of dog can suffer from dehydration.

To make sure your dog is not at risk of this, whilst enjoying sunbathing, you should always ensure you have plenty of water available for them to drink from.

Likewise, dogs more suited to colder climates should be monitored for any signs of dehydration and should be kept indoors if the temperature is extremely high.

Lastly, increased exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer in certain breeds of dogs. Despite this being an uncommon risk, it still pays to be cautious, as any type of cancer can potentially prove life-threatening for your canine.

Unfortunately, skin cancer in dogs is not always immediately obvious and can be hard to pick up on, especially in the earlier stages of the disease.

However, some signs that you can look for are as follows: raised wart-like blemishes, rubbery inflamed sores, and strange colored bumps or lumps on your dog’s lips, pads, mouth, or feet.

why dogs love sunbathing
Make sure you keep your dog cool in the summer. They will sit in the sun and pant like crazy otherwise.

How long should I let my dog lay in the sun?

I am not a vet, but for me, I won’t let my dog lay in the sun for longer than 20 minutes. Anything longer than that and he could be prone to overheating.

If he it out in the sun, I make sure he has somewhere shady to sit, and will even bring him indoors if he starts to pant a lot.

Conclusion

Picture the scenario. It is a warm summer’s day and you have just opened the back door to let your dog into the yard. After taking the time to do some chores around the house, you decide to check on your pooch.

Stepping out onto the freshly manicured lawn, you see your dog laid on its back, soaking up the rays and completely oblivious to your presence.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It’s not unusual at all. Almost all dogs like to lay in the sun and sunbathe, even if they do end up panting.

If your dog is panting excessively, make sure you get them into the shade, with cool water available for them to drink.

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Image in header licensed via Storyblock.com.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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