Do dogs need sunlight?
Do dogs get vitamin d from the sun?
Or is it much simpler than that, and do dogs just enjoy laying in the sun?
Continue reading to discover:
- How long you should let dogs sunbathe.
- 13 reasons why they’re attracted to the sun.
- 5 possible dangers when they stay too long under it.
- 5 simple tips to keep them safe whenever they sunbathe.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
- Why do dogs lay in the sun?
- 13 reasons why dogs lay in the sun
- #1: It’s ‘addictive’
- #2: It improves their mood
- #3: It enhances their sleep
- #4: It stimulates the production of vitamin D
- #5: It boosts their immune system
- #6: It promotes healthy blood circulation
- #7: It helps soothe their pain
- #8: It kills germs
- #9: It dries up their wounds
- #10: It provides warmth
- #11: It prevents them from getting winter-related diseases
- #12: It keeps them away from having the blues
- #13: It feels good
- How long should I let my dog lay in the sun?
- Is it bad for dogs to sunbathe? 5 dangers when your dog stays in the sun for too long
- Do dogs get vitamin D from the sun?
- 5 tips to keep your dog safe while laying in the sun
- People also ask:
Why do dogs lay in the sun?
Dogs lay in the sun because it gives warmth and feels good. Daylight can also boost their mood and enhance their sleep. But, they may get some vitamin D from it too. This is vital to keep their bones and immune system healthy. While the heat from the sun helps soothe pain and increases blood flow.
13 reasons why dogs lay in the sun
#1: It’s ‘addictive’
It’s a hot morning. But your dog doesn’t mind the heat.
They still rush to their favorite sunbathing spot on the lawn. Even though there are shades available.
“Why do they do this?”
Researchers suggest that sunlight might be pretty addictive.
Yup. You’ve read it right.
A study found that mice exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays showed addictive behavior.
They walked with raised and stiff tails. Plus, they also became less sensitive to touch and temperature.
The mice were given 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure for 5 days. And the experiment was done for 6 weeks.
What makes basking in the sun so addictive?
The same researchers say that it’s because of the endorphins. Or the feel-good hormones that are released due to UV rays.
The study found that the mice had a 30% to 50% increase in endorphins.
And when they were injected by a substance that counters the happy hormones…
Their touch sensitivity and tail appearance went back to normal. Plus, they also had some withdrawal signs like chattering teeth and tremors.
So, this could be the reason why some dogs can’t get enough of the sun. And why tanning on the beach is also a pleasurable activity for some of us.
#2: It improves their mood
“Here comes the sun.
Doo, doo, doo, doo.”
Aside from endorphins, sunlight also stimulates the release of another happy chemical.
It’s called serotonin. And you’re probably familiar with it.
This is like a messenger in the brain as it transmits messages among nerve cells.
And experts say that it also helps regulate our:
This applies to our furry friends too.
So, if your pooch loves laying in the sun, it might also be their way of charging themselves with happy energy.
Interesting fact: Research discovered that aggressive dogs have lower serotonin levels. And experts compared this to canines who don’t display hostile behavior. Which goes to show that the hormone can indeed affect their mood and emotions.
#3: It enhances their sleep
Did you know that enough exposure to daylight also helps us sleep better?
According to a study, this helped people with insomnia to sleep faster.
Because being in the bright light in the daytime improved their sleep quality from 77.5% to 90%.
“What’s the reason for this?”
Dr. Storoni says that long exposure to daylight causes us to release more melatonin at night.
It’s a hormone that encourages sleep. Plus, it also reduces anxiety and maintains our biological clock.
And like serotonin, this is produced in the pineal gland as well.
“What is it?”
It’s a tiny organ in the brain that most animals and we have.
So, our dogs can also sleep well at night after soaking in the sun during the day.
Interesting fact: A human’s pineal gland is around 0.4 in (1 cm) long. While it’s only 0.04 in (1 mm) in canines.
#4: It stimulates the production of vitamin D
Sunlight isn’t only a mood booster and sleep inducer.
Because it also helps our bodies to produce vitamin D.
“What does it do?”
It’s responsible for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. And these are both needed for healthy teeth, bones, and muscles.
As well as osteomalacia which is similar to rickets but mainly occurs in older animals.
Note: Experts say that dogs only get a little vitamin D from the sun. As they mainly obtain this by eating foods. Like egg yolks, fish, and liver.
I’ll explain the science behind this later on. So, stay tuned. 🙂
#5: It boosts their immune system
You might have heard some elderlies saying that sunlight is good for our health.
Well, they’re not lying at all.
Research shows that vitamin D activates the immune cells. And these defend our bodies from disease-causing pathogens.
“So, is sunlight also good for dogs?”
Dr. Robert Silver says so.
Vitamin D also helps in destroying bacteria. As well as in stimulating their cells that fight infections.
Interesting fact: Did you know that sunlight was used in ancient medicine? Hippocrates, a Greek physician, first utilized it in treating tuberculosis. It’s called heliotherapy. And its name came from the Greek word helios, which means ‘sun.’
(But, this isn’t effective in all illnesses. It may worsen other conditions, too, like skin disorders.)
#6: It promotes healthy blood circulation
Experts say that sunlight can also lower blood pressure.
“How’s this possible?”
This is because UV rays can increase levels of nitric oxide in the skin and blood.
And nitric oxide is a ‘vasodilator.’ Or a compound that relaxes and widens the blood vessels. Which improves blood flow and also reduces blood pressure.
#7: It helps soothe their pain
It might look like dogs are only sunbaking…
But, the truth is, they could also be alleviating some physical discomfort in their body.
It’s because heat is known for lessening muscle stiffness, joint pains, and cramps.
This is the concept used in thermotherapy. Or a treatment wherein heat is applied on aching tissues.
And one natural way to get this is by simply lying in the sun.
Our furry friends might have learned about this after sleeping under the heat before. And it felt invigorating. Or it’s only due to their instincts.
#8: It kills germs
Notice how laundry that’s dried under the sun smells so good?
Well, it’s all thanks to the UV rays that kill bad odor-causing bacteria.
This is proven in a study by the University of Oregon.
In the experiment, they made 11 small rooms that are climate-controlled.
Some were illuminated by natural light. While others didn’t have any lighting at all.
Then after 90 days, they gathered dust samples from each room.
And the results?
The rooms without any lights had 12% alive bacteria. While those that were exposed to sunlight only had 6.8%.
So, if your pooch always soaks themselves in the sun, it’s also possible that their fur smells better. (Oh, but provided that they didn’t roll in the mud or anything stinky outside!)
#9: It dries up their wounds
Since UV rays get rid of germs, they could also eliminate bacteria in dogs’ wounds.
One example of this is yeast. And it’s the cause of one of the most common infections in canines.
Yeast is a type of fungi that’s present in every dog’s skin. However, it can multiply and cause itchy ears or paws.
Allergies usually cause this. But, excessive skin licking could also make the fungi grow as bacteria thrive in moist areas.
So, exposing the skin to the sun will kill those microbes. And speed up the drying of wounds.
Reading tip: Why do dogs lick their paws?
#10: It provides warmth
Just like us, dogs and other mammals also seek heat whenever they feel cold.
Canines with short fur or thin coats are even more sensitive to chilly weather. As well as senior Fidos.
Because they may have trouble regulating their body temperature.
And by laying in the sun, they could easily make themselves warmer and cozier.
Cold weather might also bring some illnesses to dogs.
And based on vets, the most common ones are:
- Hypothermia (low body temperature).
“How does sunlight help with this?”
By sunbathing indoors, dogs can keep their bodies warm.
What I meant by this is when canines find a spot inside the house. Where the sunlight usually passes through a glass window.
They’ll also get a bit of vitamin D from the exposure. And this could help boost their immune system.
#12: It keeps them away from having the blues
Another condition that the chilly weather can bring is seasonal affective disorder, a.k.a. SAD.
You might be familiar with its other name, which is ‘winter blues.’
This occurs during the cold season when sunshine is little or rare. Hence, the name.
And earlier, we talked about how sunlight promotes the release of happy hormones.
So, lack of sun exposure can also bring down your dog’s mood. Which will then result in:
- Sleeping more.
- A change in appetite.
Dr. Stanley Coren noticed this on his 3 dogs.
All of a sudden, they were less interested in things they used to enjoy. Like taking walks and even barking at the mailman.
They also slept more than usual. And often demand snacks.
But, he saw a news report that their area only received a small amount of sunlight in the past few days.
After that, a eureka moment happened. And he discerned that his pooches show similar signs of the ‘blues.’
Coren also said that other dog parents reported the same thing during winter.
So, dogs who sunbathe might be taking advantage of any available daylight in the area. Or they’re trying to make themselves feel better.
#13: It feels good
Last but not least, dogs can also do this due to one simple reason.
It’s relaxing and pleasurable.
Imagine being basked by warmth (not too hot) and light one Sunday morning.
While you’re reading a book or drinking coffee out on the terrace.
It’s a different kind of feeling. Not to mention the health benefits that you may get from the sunshine.
So, canines may also enjoy sunbaking as much as you do.
No matter how much your dog loves staying under it, too many UV rays aren’t good for them.
I’ll discuss the possible dangers shortly.
But before that…
How long should I let my dog lay in the sun?
You should let your adult dog lay in the sun for about 20 minutes. But if you have a large breed, they may need 30 to 40 minutes daily. However, if you have a small puppy, experts recommend no longer than 10 to 15 minutes.
You can do this twice a day. But, make sure that you monitor your dog and keep them hydrated.
“At what times should I let my dog do this?”
Avoid taking them out between 10 am and 4 pm.
This is because the sun’s UV rays are at its strongest during those hours. And being exposed to these could damage your dog’s skin.
Is it bad for dogs to sunbathe? 5 dangers when your dog stays in the sun for too long
We’ve talked about the benefits of sunlight to canines.
But, remember, too much of anything is bad.
So like us, PetMD says they can get sunburned too.
Which results in painful, inflamed, and itchy skin. Or sometimes, flakiness and hair loss.
Although dogs have fur, this won’t protect their skin from harmful UV rays. Especially when they’re exposed to the sun for too long.
This could happen to all dogs. But, certain Fidos are more prone to this.
Based on a study, these are dogs who have short hair. As well as those with light-colored fur.
Such as tiny Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, Whippets, and Dalmatians.
Because their skins have little pigmentation. Which produces less melanin that protects the skin from the sun.
While the UV rays easily penetrate dogs with thin fur.
This is also why areas without much covering often get burned, like their:
- The top part of the muzzle.
- Belly (since dogs love lying on their backs).
#2: Skin cancer
Next, dogs who have long sun exposure and sunburns are also at risk of skin cancer.
According to PetsWebMD, staying in the sun for so long is the cause of squamous cell carcinoma.
It’s a type of skin cancer that looks like a wart – except that it’s often reddish. And this may grow on their bellies and private parts.
“What dogs are more prone to this?”
Again, short-haired and light-skinned canines. This is because UV rays can easily damage their skin.
Another type that dogs might get is melanomas.
This targets the melanocytes or the cells that produce melanin.
It’s a more severe form of cancer. Because unlike the previous one, this may spread to their lymph nodes and organs.
“How do canines develop this?”
The exact cause is unclear.
But, vets say that too much licking of sunburns may cause the affected cells to multiply and spread.
Note: Usually, squamous cell carcinomas are treated by surgery alone. While melanomas also need chemotherapy.
Aside from skin problems, your dog might also lose too much fluid under the sun.
This is because when canines are hot, they pant as a way to cool down. And this process causes water to evaporate.
Now, if your pooch doesn’t also drink during this…
They could suffer from dehydration.
This happens when the water they take in isn’t enough to replace all the fluid they’ve lost.
“How will I know if my dog is dehydrated?”
Dr. Jerry Klein shared an easy way. And it’s to test their skin elasticity.
To do this, you just have to:
- Lightly grab a part of your dog’s skin. (Preferably around their shoulders).
- Lift it and release it.
- Then look how fast it returns to its original state.
If it goes back slowly, they’re likely dehydrated.
But, there are other signs that you may also notice, like:
- Dry nose.
- Thick saliva.
- Sticky gums.
- Sunken eyes.
Warning: Dehydration needs immediate medical attention. The loss of water will affect the supply of oxygen in their tissues. And this might result in organ failure or death.
Did you know that dogs mainly sweat on their paw pads?
So, unlike us who perspire in different parts of our bodies…
It’s harder for them to regulate their temperature when they’re hot. And if they’re not able to cool themselves, this may result in overheating.
In this case, experts say that brachycephalic breeds are at high risk.
For example, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and French Bulldogs.
This is because they have short snouts and narrow airways.
These might cause breathing problems. Especially if they’re exposed to the sun for so long without access to water or shade.
“What are the signs to watch out for?”
- Heavy panting.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Excessive drooling.
Interesting fact: Researchers found that canines can also have ‘hyperhidrosis.’ It’s the condition for excessive sweating. They observed this in some pure-bred Beagles. Wherein the dogs have persistent wet paw pads.
You may also wonder: Why do dogs sleep with their tongues out?
Lastly, overheating might also lead to heatstroke.
It’s a serious form and usually the last stage of hyperthermia. Or an abnormally high body temperature.
Based on vets, dogs with temperatures higher than 103°F (39.4°C) are in danger.
And 107°F to 109°F (41.2°C to 42.7°C) can be fatal as it may cause organ failure in canines.
This is why it’s important to notice any of its signs before it’s too late.
- Sticky gums.
- Unusual gum color.
- Increased breathing rate.
Warning: If your dog shows any of these signs, bring them to the emergency clinic right away.
But as first aid, spray some cool water or place a wet towel on their body. Specifically on their armpits, belly, paws, and head. Then keep on doing this until they get medical attention.
Do dogs get vitamin D from the sun?
Dogs can get vitamin D from the sun. But, it’s not much compared to what humans absorb out of a single exposure.
Let me explain the process first.
When sunlight hits us, the oils (7-dehydrocholesterol) in our skin are converted into vitamin D3.
After this, it’ll be absorbed by our body through our skin. Then, it’ll go to our bloodstream.
However, dogs could only do the 1st part.
Because the vitamin created is said to be stuck in their fur. And to absorb the nutrients, they have to lick them first.
But, some researchers suggest that dogs can’t make much vitamin D on their own due to evolution.
As they’re carnivores. And they could get their daily dose of it by eating liver, blood, and fats of prey.
5 tips to keep your dog safe while laying in the sun
#1: Provide them access to a proper shade
Most dogs self-regulate.
When it’s already too hot, they’ll quickly get up and find some shade.
For this, you can buy an elevated outdoor dog bed with a canopy – like this one. So that the heat from the ground doesn’t reach them while they’re resting.
Or set up a covered area using a tent or sun shade sail. Just ensure that the spot under it is a cool pavement or solid surface – not dirt.
Then, you may also place a shallow container or tub nearby. Fill ¼ of it with water. So your dog can dip in it to play or cool down.
But, always supervise your pooch while they’re in the tub.
To get an idea, watch this short video below:
Note: Some dogs may not also seek shade when it’s necessary. So, check your pooch. If they look unwell and panting heavily, place them in a cooler area right away. Wet them and offer them some water.
#2: Keep them well-hydrated
Being in the sun makes dogs pant. And this might cause them to lose a lot of fluids.
So, to prevent dehydration and overheating, give your Fido a bowl of fresh water.
“Help! My dog only sips a small amount.”
To motivate them to drink more, you can:
- Put some ice on their bowl.
- Entice them with a garden sprinkler or water hose.
- Check and clean their bowl. Then refill it again with water.
- Use cooled broth (bone or chicken) instead of fresh water.
#3: Prepare wet towels on stand-by
To help your dog cool down when they’re hot, lay some moist towels that they can lie on.
First, soak the clean sheets in cool water. Get rid of the excess fluids. Then, place the towels on the ground.
Note: Water evaporates pretty fast. So, don’t forget to drench them from time to time. While your dog’s still out in the sun. You may also consider investing in a cooling mat for dogs.
#4: Apply a dog-safe sunscreen on them
Sun creams can also protect our furry friends’ skin from harmful UV rays.
However, if you intend to use one, buy a sunscreen that’s non-toxic and specially made for dogs.
And AKC says to keep these things in mind:
- Never use a human sunblock on your dog. It has poisonous chemicals, and canines may lick these off their skin. So, choose a dog-safe sunscreen instead.
- Stay away from toxic ingredients. Read the labels carefully. Avoid products with zinc oxide, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), and octyl salicylate.
- It should offer maximum sun protection. Pick a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30, as this can deflect around 97% of UV rays.
- Go for a waterproof and fragrant-free one. Opt for a long-lasting and unscented product with less artificial fragrance. This will also be good for dogs with skin allergies.
How to apply?
First, do a skin patch test on your dog.
Put a tiny amount of sunscreen on one area of their body. Then, see if they have an allergic reaction to it within 24 hours.
If your dog didn’t experience any discomfort, you could now apply it to their whole body.
Just avoid getting some of it in their eyes while you’re massaging it on their head.
And also, don’t forget to put a cream on these exposed areas:
- Inner thighs.
- Nose bridge.
- Near their mouth.
- The outer side of the ears.
Note: Always put sunscreen on your dog 20 minutes before they head outside. Then, reapply it every 4 hours while you’re outdoors. And also do this after they swam.
#5: Make them wear a sun protection clothing
Lastly, you may also cover up your pooch if they need to be in the sun for long hours.
It’s functional, yet it could be a good fashion statement as well.
There are various items that you can use for this purpose, like:
- Cooling vests.
- UV protection shirts.
- Cooling dog bandanas.
- Dog goggles (for small puppies and larger dogs).
Note: Pick what accessory or clothing will be the best for your dog’s size and preferences.
People also ask:
Why do dogs lay in the sun and pant?
Dogs lay in the sun and pant because they’re cooling themselves down. Unlike us, canines only sweat on their paw pads. And this isn’t enough to reduce their body temperature.
Vets call this process thermoregulation. So what happens is, while panting, dogs inhale cooler air.
Then, the warmer air will come up from their chest. And turn into moisture and evaporate when they exhale.
If your dog pants heavily, quickly move them to a shade and give them fresh water.
For further reading: Why does my dog suddenly pant (heavily)?
Why do dogs lay in the sun on hot days?
Dogs lay in the sun on hot days because the warmth feels good. And also, the heat helps alleviate any pain in their body.
But aside from these, sunbathing can improve their mood as well.
Because sunlight is needed to release ‘happy hormones.’ Such as serotonin and endorphin.
Why do old dogs lay in the sun?
Old dogs lay in the sun because the heat soothes their aching joints. You may notice this more when the weather’s cold. This is because low temperature worsens joint pains.
It’s observed both in arthritic people and dogs. And ample heat from the sun can keep them warm. Plus, it could also temporarily relieve their discomfort.
Can dogs get too much sun?
Dogs can also get sick from too much sun. Prolonged exposure to it might result in sunburn or skin cancer. And canines with short white coats are more prone to these conditions.
They have less skin pigmentation. And their thin fur gives their skin little protection from the harmful rays of the sun.
Canines are also at risk of dehydration. Which may lead to overheating or, worse, heatstroke.