Dogs are interesting and all the things they do turns out to be amazing and very delightful to watch. There is no doubt that a canine is man’s best companion. Have you ever wondered why your canine companion always joins you when sunbathing? Well, you definitely do this to absorb some Vitamins but is a dog intelligent enough to know this? These are questions that have certainly crossed your mind severally in your dog-keeping experience, and probably the reason why you are reading this post.
So, do you want to know why dogs like to sleep in the sun? Are you wondering how long you should let your dog out in the sun? You are in the right place! Today I will answer all these questions by giving all the reasons behind this dog’s behavior.
Let’s start with the basics.
How much sun does a dog need daily?
Many dog specialists, hobbyists, and veterinaries recommend that 20-30 minutes twice a day is the ideal sunbathing period for most dogs. For larger breeds, you are advised to unleash your dog into the sun for at least 40 minutes. In addition to this, you can consult your vet to know the most recommended sun exposure period for your dog after examining how fit the dog’s physical state is for sun exposure.
Why do dogs lay in the sun and pant?
Finding a dog laying in the sun panting is not uncommon or unusual. A dog panting is the equivalent of you sweating. Dogs will pant when they are too hot, as this is their strategy to cool down. Not all panting is healthy, though. If you realize that your dog is having louder, harsher and continued panting, then it may be a sign of a serious health problem. You should therefore reach out to a veterinarian immediately on observing heavy panting from your dog.
Why do dogs lay in the sun? The simple answer
There are a good number of reasons why you will commonly find your dog laying on a hot pavement enjoying the sun and panting even when the temperatures are high. However, from most of the research findings that I read, I can clearly say that there is only one reason that if the dogs talk, they could justify their behavior with- the feel-good factor of soaking into the sun’s warmth.
Like humans, dogs enjoy the revitalizing feeling of warmth and light from the sun and even though they may not know about the Vitamin D benefit, they get a good dose of it when they sunbathe. It all builds up to a feel-good factor that is priceless for the canines on laying in the sun.
Why do dogs lay in the sun? A detailed answer with all possible reasons
Surprisingly, most of the reasons why dogs like to lay in the sun are health-related and not known to them. In most cases, only you, as the pet owner, will get to observe these improvements in their health. Of course, they will love and like it when their body is tuned up by sun rays even if they don’t understand how each improvement happens.
The greatest health benefit: Absorption of Vitamin D
Vitamin D in a dog’s body
Vitamin D is found in the dogs’ body, fatty tissues and the liver. The presence of Vitamin D in their body is beneficial in 3 major ways:
- It acts as an enzyme when the dog manufactures more Vitamin D with the help of sunlight. (I will explain this process under the next subheading)
- It promotes the production and regulates the quantities of minerals such as Calcium and phosphorus, which in turn help the dog develop strong bones.
- Works in conjunction with other Vitamins and minerals to control the dog’s muscles and nerves.
Although a dog’s diet will act as the main source of Vitamin D, supplementation from the sun is still needed to maintain this Vitamin’s required level in their body. While dogs may not know that they are absorbing this Vitamin when laying in the sun, it may be one of the indirect reasons why they love to stay out in the sun.
How do dogs get vitamin D from the sun?
Just like in humans, a dog’s skin has oils that the sun’s rays can split to produce Vitamin D. On exposure to direct sunlight, the UV rays act on the oils by breaking their chemical bonds, releasing Vitamin D3 in the process.
Vitamin D3 is channeled back into their body through a process called dermal absorption. This process up to full absorption of the Vitamin produced should take around 15-20 minutes, meaning that this is the minimum amount of time a dog should stay continuously on direct sunlight.
Despite there being a good amount of Vitamin D3 on the dog’s skin, efficient absorption is never achieved as their furry coat blocks this. As a result, a lot of Vitamin D is left on the fur and can only be absorbed by the dog through licking (another common dog’s behavior).
Other reasons dogs like the sun
Other than Vitamin D, which is very crucial, as seen above, there are other reasons why dogs like to soak up sun rays. As mentioned above, these are mainly in the form of physiological and emotional health benefits. Let’s check them out.
> Helps dogs warm up
The direct implication of sun rays in a dog’s body is an increase in temperature. By warming up their body, dogs enjoy the feel-good factor discussed above along with the following:
- Relieves pain in the joints and muscles for older dogs
- Helps the dogs avoid common diseases related to cold conditions
> Improves rest and sleep
Sun exposure induces melatonin production, a hormone that regulates how your dog’s sleep patterns. Since dogs always get quality sleep and rest periods after some sunbathing sessions, they will repeat this day in day out if they have the freedom.
> Improves mood
In the same breathe, sunlight stimulates serotonin production, a neurotransmitter capable of generating the feeling of happiness. If you unleash your canine friends into the sun, their serotonin levels will get boosted, improving their mood. Note that this will also leave the dogs yearning for more and more sunlight.
The dangers of prolonged sun exposure
Despite the benefits discussed above, spending too much in the sun is harmful to dogs, just as it is for humans. The most common conditions that your dogs may develop on prolonged sun exposure are the following:
- Sunburn. Sunburns not only affect humans but animals too. For dogs, this mainly occurs on the abdomen area and the top of the muzzle.
- Dehydration. This is the excess loss of body fluids on continued exposure to very high temperatures. Your dog may show signs such as sunken eyes, general body weakness, sticky gums, etc., on becoming dehydrated.
- Heatstroke. When dogs absorb a lot of heat, their organs may cease operating, a condition that no dog owner would want to see their dog in. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, loss of consciousness, abrupt body weakness, collapse, etc.
Just as you will not spend 6+ hours on scorching sun day in day out, you should not let your canine companion soak up too much sunlight.
Some risk factors make specific dogs fall in the category of those that need special attention when going out in the sun. Here are the risk factors/ special dog categories:
- Dogs with short coats
- White coated dogs
- Dogs with skin-covered dogs/ hairless dogs
- Sunbathers (dogs that lie in the sun on their back)
- Dogs with light-colored nose
If your dog is in any of the above categories, then you need to properly condition him before he goes out and lay in the sun. Here are some tips:
- Groom your dog with sun protective clothing anytime. A sunsuit, dog shirt, or vest with built-in cooling properties and UV protection will keep your dog protected from harmful sun rays. This is more crucial for dogs that like to spend most of their time sunbathing with their underbelly section facing the sun.
- Use sunscreen. Some areas, such as the nose area, are impractical to cover with protective clothing, meaning that sunblock is the ultimate solution. Only use on your dog, a pet-safe sunscreen (preferably one that is safe to ingest) and that offers broad-spectrum protection.
- Understand your dog. If you notice that your dog has problems panting and dissipating heat when in the sun, then it is better to restrain him from spending too much time in the sun. To understand your dog, you’ll definitely have to spend more time together.
- Avoid the scorching sun. Restrain your dog from laying in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and especially on a very hot day. Also, if you live in areas where the temperatures are always on the extremes, it would be better to use other alternatives such as supplements.
Frequently Asked Questions
• So, should you encourage dog sun-basking?
Definitely, yes, as sunlight is undoubtedly beneficial to your dog’s health and general wellbeing. Even with this, you should only allow your dog to go outdoors when the conditions are not very harsh and only at the required timeframes, as discussed above.
• Can I sunbathe with my dog?
This is one of the smartest decisions you can make as a homeowner and there are reasons for this. First, the bond between you and your dog will be strengthened as you will have much more together time. Next, it will be easier to coordinate the time you two spend basking in the sun. Remember that the sunlight requirements between you and your pet are almost similar, meaning that you can have almost equal sunbathing sessions.
• Do dogs have a favorite area to do their sunbathing?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, dogs are amazing animals and the decisions they make will make you love them even more. Dogs are, for example, excellent at selecting spots to enjoy sunlight from. It may be somewhere on your lawn or a pavement near your house. They will mainly go for areas that are constantly shone by the sun.
• How can I keep my dog well-hydrated?
A well-hydrated dog will always make the most out of the sunbathing session. You need accessories such as a practical water bottle or a foldable bowl where you can carry cold water to freshen up your dog. A nice strategy here is investing in a nice pet cool mat and carrying it every time you head out to enjoy the sun with your dog. Just let your dog sit on the mat for some minutes when they get overheated. The pressure from the dog’s body will activate the liquid that the mat holds, cooling the dog instantly.
• Are there alternatives to sunbathing?
If you live in an area where sunlight is very limited, then it may be hard for your dog to get the required exposure. In this situation, you should use alternatives such as food supplements or UV light bulbs. For the latter, always consult your veterinarian to understand the compatibility requirements for your specific dog.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this article and fully understood why dogs like to lay in the sun. It is evident from this post that dogs generally love the sun’s warmth and the therapeutic, relaxing feeling it brings. Although this is their main aim, dogs too benefit health-wise (emotionally and physiologically) and this is why you should unleash your dog anytime there is HEALTHY sunlight shining outdoors.
As much as you appreciate the good things your dog will be getting from the sun, don’t forget that overexposure may lead to devastating health conditions. Grooming your dog for the sun is definitely something that you should consider doing if you really love your dog and care about its welfare, which I’m sure you do if you have read this post to this point. All the best as you continue to learn about the common canine phenomenon and understanding your companion better.