How many times have you seen your dog lying in the sun? Perhaps you have seen it so many times and not even thought why dogs do it.
So, let’s break it up and list all the reasons why do dogs like sunbathing, how important it is and if overdosing on the sun rays can be harmful to dogs.
Why do dogs lay in the sun?
Dogs lay in the sun because it feels good, they can warm up and it is a good source of vitamin D. Sounds familiar?
Indeed, it is very similar to why humans like sunbathing. We love laying in the sun as it brings us pleasure. Especially in countries with seasonal weather, people long for the summertime to go to the beach or even stay in the backyard and get some tan.
The warmth of the sun feels good, your skin gets a nice brownish colour and a healthy dose of vitamin D. Obviously, sunbathing should be done properly by limiting your sun time and applying an adequate quantity of sunscreen to your skin.
With dogs it is similar, but apart from getting vitamin D, dogs can regulate their body temperature. Similar to cuddling.
Our border collie, Capri, often finds her favourite spot on the backyard or balcony, lay down and rest. In Australia, days can be really hot, and she does it also in summer. She must have that subconscious urge to get vitamin D in her body.
When I see her, I can say she enjoys it a lot. This means, sunbathing is natural for dogs.
However, I often thought whether it may be harmful to her if she stayed there for too long? But, let’s first talk about why vitamin D is important for dogs.
Why vitamin D is important for dogs?
According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA), vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps dogs to regulate calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin D is a special prohormone that is more hormone than a vitamin. It is kept in the fat tissues of the body and liver.
In general, vitamin D is important for a dog’s bone formation, muscle and nerve control. Once absorbed, dogs can regulate their body temperature, which helps them also to have a good sleep.
The common food source of vitamin D for dogs are liver, fish, and egg yolks. Occasionally it can also be found in beef and dairy.
Interestingly, due to most dogs have thick fur, and the sun does not penetrate directly to the skin, so vitamin D is left over on their fur. Dogs can absorb these leftovers by licking themselves.
If your dog feels vitamin D absence it naturally tries to absorb it by laying in the sun. Awesome!
Can dog’s sunbathing be harmful?
Yes, sunbathing can be harmful to dogs, similar to humans.
Apart from sunburns, dogs can develop skin cancer or get a heat stroke, if they are exposed to the sun over an extended period of time.
Luckily most dogs have thick hair and the sun cannot penetrate through the skin easily.
However, many dog’s parts like the nose and ears, can be entirely exposed, so an occasional sunburn is possible even with dogs.
Dogs with short and thin coats and also those with light coloured furs are more prone to be vulnerable to sunburns.
The good thing is that dogs instinctively seek shelter when they are overwhelmed with sunrays. Nature!
How to protect your dog if it sunbaths too much?
There are two things you can help your dog if it loves spending too much time sunbathing.
Using dog-safe sunscreen
Dog-safe sunscreens come in a variety of options like sprays, balms, sticks or wipes. Usually, they are water-resistant and have a pleasant fragrance. They contain only the ingredients that are suitable for dogs.
You can use it by applying it to the exposed parts of your dog. Also, for short hair dogs or skin shaved dogs it is recommended to apply it to the whole body every four hours.
Never try to use human sunscreen as it may contain unwanted ingredients or minerals like Zinc that can be harmful to your dog.
Keep your dog hydrated and provide adequate shading
It sounds obvious, but some owners forget to even fill the dog’s water bowl.
These days we might be busy, but making sure your dogs have consistent access to water and shade is vital for your dog’s well being.
Let your dog enjoy the sun
If you are still not sure, whether it is a good idea to let your dog lay in the sun let’s summarize what we have learned.
- Dogs instinctively look to sunbake when lacking vitamin D
- Dogs like to get warm to regulate their temperature
- Dogs sleep better if their temperature is regulated
- Dogs cannot be exposed to the sun too much, similar to humans
- Dogs can get cancer or heat stroke
- We can help dogs by controlling their sun time, use dog sunscreen and provide adequate hydration and shading
I think got a good answer to why do dogs lay in the sun and how important it is.
So, let your dog enjoy the sun, but keep a close eye to make sure it is done safely.
Does your dog lie in the sun?
This could be a rhetorical question, but I am interested what’s your dog favourite spots when lying in the sun. Feel free to drop a comment below.
Read about other interesting dogs’ behaviour:
Brain Training for Dogs
Brain Training for Dogs was developed by CPDT-KA certified dog trainer Adrianne Farricelli. CPDT-KA stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed.
Adrienne lives in Arizona with her husband and two amazing Rottweilers and she is passionate about dogs. She was featured in USA Today and Every Dog magazine and also contributed to eHow and All Experts.
Her Brain Training for Dogs program helped thousands of struggling dog owners all over the world.