Like most dog parents, if you stay with your dog long enough, you will discover that your dog enjoys laying in that perfect spot just right enough to enjoy the sun rays. This gives the impression that our dogs enjoy a little suntan just like we do, but that is far from the truth. All dogs have some fur whether large or small so it cannot be the case of them wanting some tan for their skin. Your dog’s love for laying in the sun goes much deeper than the feel good feeling they get. Infact, research has proven that there are health benefits that make our dogs comfortably lay down in the sun.
So what do dogs benefit from sunlight?
Why does my dog like to lay in the sun?
In summary, laying in the sun helps our dogs to rest, improves your dog’s mood, and increases the production of Vitamin D. In addition to the above, especially for older dogs, this act helps to relieve joint pains and keep them warm during cold seasons.
Let’s explain this in more details
Laying in the Sun helps our dogs to rest.
When your dog lays in the sun, the sun ray expediates the production of a hormone called melatonin. This hormone helps to regulate the sleep cycle of our dogs. Naturally occurring in the pineal gland of every dog. The production of this hormone occurs faster when our dogs lay in the sun giving them more tranquility while sleeping and also improving the quality of the sleep.
In addition to improving our dog’s sleep, the enhanced production of melatonin in our dogs helps them to deal with different types of anxiety, be it noise anxiety or even separation anxiety. They’re laying down in the sun helps them to manage and even in some cases alleviate this problem.
This hormone also helps our dogs to deal with phobias, panic attacks, epilepsy, and hair loss. In older dogs, the hormone helps them to deal with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. A condition in dogs that is similar to Alzheimer’s in human beings.
Laying in the Sun helps to improve our dog’s mood.
Our dog laying in the Sun also helps in the making of the hormone serotonin. This is a natural anti-depressant, an important neurotransmitter in our dog’s brain which is linked to them being able to generate a feeling of happiness.
The natural release of this hormone in our dog’s brain also helps them to regulate the functions of their lungs and hearts properly, it also improves their appetite, their behavior, temperature, awareness of pain, and their body’s motor function or movement.
All these combine to make our dogs feel happier and a very noticeable improvement in their mood towards us and others around them.
Laying in the Sun Increases Vitamin D Levels in our dogs
Vitamin D is considered to be both a hormone and a liposoluble vitamin. Hormone because it is being produced in the body by both dogs and humans when they are out in the sun, a liposoluble vitamin because of its ability to dissolve fats and oils. Vitamin D is usually stored in the body longer because they are stored in the adipose tissues in the body. This is good news because you would not need to spend a lot of money on Vitamin D supplements. You also would not need to spend a lot on Vitamin D rich food as they would be easily stored in your dog’s body as stated above.
In all these options, our dogs still instinctively know that the best way to increase their Vitamin D level is by laying under the warm rays of the sun. This Vitamin D is a very important nutrient because it helps our dogs to control the intake of calcium and phosphorus, and these two minerals are known to be very important in the development and strengthening of dog bones. They are also known to prevent the emergence of bone-related problems and skeletal system problems such as osteoporosis.
Vitamin D has also been linked with improved immune systems in dogs, it is also linked with improved muscle development and an improved nervous system.
In humans, we have a situation where our body absorbs Vitamin D directly into our bodies, but with dogs, the situation is completely different. They have most of the Vitamin D built up on their fur leading to our dogs licking on their hair every now and then in other to digest the Vitamin D.
So if you have a situation where you find your dog grooming himself or herself, just know that they are only ingesting the Vitamin D produced by them laying in the Sun.
Laying in the Sun helps to Alleviate Joint Pains for Elderly dogs.
It’s no secret that dogs tend to develop more health issues as they grow older, one of the more prominent health problems for elderly dogs has to do joint pains. As our dogs get older, their coats get weaker, this exposes their body and joints to cold making them have rheumatic problems. These problems are alleviated by our elderly dog laying in the sun. The warmth of the Sun tends to assist in relieving them of any pains they experience in their joints.
Laying in the Sun keeps them warm especially in cold seasons
Apart from getting the rest they want, an improvement in their mood, increased vitamin D production, and relief for joint problems, the obvious reason for our dogs wanting to lay in the sun is to get warm. The factors in play here are the dog’s breed, the volume of the hair covering their body, and the age of the dog.
Smaller dog breeds with less hair such as chihuahuas are prone to get cold easily. This goes on to even bigger dogs with less hair and as they age, their hair tends to be less effective in keeping them warm hence their need to lay in the warmth of the sun. This need is even more obvious during the cold seasons like winter.
How long should I let my dog lay in the sun?
By now you would have realized the tremendous advantages your dogs benefit from sunlight. But as with all things allowing your dog to lay in the sun must be done with caution. Just like over tanning can lead to sunburns and skin damage in humans. Letting your dog to lay in the sun for a long time on end can also have negative effects.
For example in dogs absorption of a large amount of calcium into their system can lead to the wrong formation of their jaws and teeth. It has also been noticed, especially in young dogs that it can cause nervous and musculoskeletal disorders leading to deformity at the developmental stages.
For shorthaired dogs, laying in the sun for a long time on end can easily lead to heatstrokes and sunburns.
So the question remains “how long can a dog be in the sun?”, “how much sun does a dog need daily?”.
Well, the answer to this is not written out in plain standards but a bit of common sense is required here. For example, if you notice that the sun is scorching hot at certain points of the day, there is no need to allow your dog under such a Sun as all the mentioned advantages come with warm sunlight and not a scorching sun.
Secondly, if you notice that your dog has been lying in the Sun all morning into the afternoon, then he or she is likely overdoing it. More so if you check them and notice Sunburns on them.
There are always warning signs to this like if you find your dog laying in the sun panting, this is usually an indicator that your dog might be suffering from a Heat Stroke. Associated indicators are:
High body temperature (above 42 degrees Celcius)
An increase in their heart rate
Bluish Skin (This occurs due to lack of oxygen in their system)
If any of these indicators are noticed, then you need to act quickly. Take your dog out of the sun and use a cloth drenched in cool water to wrap around him or her. It needs to be said that a heat Stroke is usually a precursor to Sunstroke which is even more deadly and can lead to a dog’s death, so the best thing for us to do is to take safety precautions for our dogs while they lay in the sun.
Precautions to take while your dog lays in the Sun.
Get a dog Sunscreen especially if you have a short-haired dog.
Make sure to have cool water available for both drinking and wetting the dog if necessary.
Try and prevent your dog from laying out in the sun during the hottest times of the day.
Make sure to cool your dog’s body temperature down with cool water if you feel they are getting too hot.
Avoid excessive shaving of your dog’s fur, doing this exposes them to more ultraviolet rays from the sun and increases the chances of suffering from a Sunstroke.
And if they exhibit any signs of heatstroke as mentioned above remove them entirely from the Sun Wrap the whole body is a cloth soaked in cool water and contact your vet doctor.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.