Why do dogs like being in the sun? Risks and benefits of this habit – How many times do we find them placidly lying on the balcony or in the garden, as if they were on a tanning bed? Dogs like to be in the sun, of course. But how come?
In summer, and not only, our four-legged friends often lie in the sun wherever they find some: outside on a balcony, in the garden, in front of a bright window. And they seem to relax and sunbathe as we humans do on the beach. Maybe it doesn’t even seem so interesting to us: dogs like to be in the sun because they simply feel good in the feeling of warmth, right? What if there is something more? But above all, are there any risks to their health? Let’s learn more about this habit of our furry, and how to be careful of any dangers.
Why do dogs like being in the sun?
Does our dog love to lie in the sun? Do you have a favorite place for sunbathing, in front of a particular window? Of course, because dogs like to lie in the sun. And this, because in the sun it feels good and because sunlight is a good source of vitamin D.
We humans also love sunbathing, both on the local beach and in our garden. Sunglasses, tanning lotion applied and a warm towel on the floor. It is one of the simple pleasures of summer. The heat of the sun is pleasant on our skin and is a good healthy dose of vitamin D – in moderation, of course.
Dogs seem to love lying in the sun as much as we do. On sunny days we can find our beloved Fido lying down to rest in the sunlight for hours. Maybe he’s right there now, lying on that cozy warm carpet, in front of the sliding glass door. If there is a ray of sunshine to find, it will find it.
Lying in the sun makes our dogs feel good and that extra heat helps regulate their temperature (pampering is another common way in which our dogs stay warm and comfortable). But relaxing in the sun is much more for them than just feeling good, it is really beneficial for our dogs. Our dogs get vitamin D by sunbathing, just like us, but they get it in a very different way.
The importance of vitamin D for dogs
Vitamin D is considered a “pro hormone”, which means it is more of a hormone than a vitamin. It is still considered a vitamin because our dogs cannot absorb calcium without it, but it is also considered a hormone because our dogs’ bodies produce it in response to direct sunlight.
Vitamin D is maintained in the fatty tissues of the body and liver. It helps regulate the balance of calcium and phosphorus in the bodies of our dogs. Vitamin D for dogs is important for bone formation and muscle and nerve control. Vitamin D stimulates the conservation of calcium in the kidneys and therefore helps the body to retain it.
Due to its interaction with calcium, vitamin D is extremely important in the formation of bones and in the control of nerves and muscles. Most of the vitamin D that our dogs receive is obtained through their diet, although they create it in direct sunlight, just like us.
Science explains why dogs sunbathe
When we humans lie in the sun, the sun’s rays help break down the oils in our skin that create vitamin D. When we are in direct sunlight, the oil in our skin reacts to UV rays by breaking chemical bonds and creating vitamin D3. After it has been broken down, it is absorbed back into our body and bloodstream, through skin absorption. The process takes about 15-20 minutes.
Dogs have the same chemical on their skin that converts to vitamin D in direct sunlight. But because of their fur, Vitamin D3 cannot be absorbed effectively in their body. Vitamin D3 remains on their fur and is ingested orally when they lick and take care of their fur.
Although dogs can create their own vitamin D in direct sunlight, their absorption is quite inefficient. Our dogs receive most of their vitamin D through their diet. The next time our dog is treating himself by combing and licking himself, remember that he is not only doing it to look nice, but he is also taking some vitamin D.
Too much sun: harmful to dogs?
Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn and skin cancer in dogs. When it comes to sunburn some dogs are more sensitive than others. The dogs most at risk of sunburn are hairless breeds, those with short and thin hair, and those with white or light-colored fur.
To avoid sunburn, we make sure that the dog always has access to the shade. He will instinctively seek some refreshment in the shade, when the sun becomes too intense. If we spend a lot of time outdoors with our dog, we take some safe sunscreen for dogs. Sunscreen for humans contains certain ingredients, such as zinc oxide, which are toxic to pets. So be careful to read the label carefully, or we can ask our veterinarian for advice for safety.
Like us, prolonged sun exposure exposes our dogs to an increased risk of developing skin cancer. We can reduce this risk by making sure that the dog has access to the shade, and by using safe sunscreen for dogs when they are outdoors. It will be important to give all the necessary protections to our puppy, while still allowing him to relax in the sun as much as he wants.