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Do Dogs Need Sunlight?

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Perhaps everyone would agree that sunlight plays a huge role upon life on Earth.

Without the sun, Earth would be a lifeless planet with no existence of living things.

It provides warm temperature to our seas, it creates our weather patterns, and most importantly, it supplies energy to our plants and trees, which in turn, provide food and oxygen for us to survive.

Like humans, dogs and other mammals that are active during the day need to be exposed to raw sunlight to get the nutrients coming from it.

For dogs, cats, and other mammals, exposure to natural light is a basic necessity for them to stay healthy.

Most dogs like being warm, and sunlight can provide it. So, yes, dogs need sunlight.

dog on a sunlit day with owner

Do dogs get Vitamin D from the sun?

Yes, sunlight, which is also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a good source for Vitamin D that can benefit not only humans, but other mammals as well, including our dogs.

If you’re wondering how it works, when the skin receives the UV rays from the sun, it interacts with cholesterol which then stimulates the production of Vitamin D that enters the body.

Do they need sunlight for Vitamin D?

While dogs can produce Vitamin D when their skin gets in contact with sunlight, the vast majority of it gets caught up in their fur, which means that dogs only get small amounts of Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight compared to humans.

Therefore, although they can get Vitamin D directly from sunlight, it is not the best source.

You can provide them with enough mineral requirements through their diet.

Vitamin D has more important benefits for your dog than you might think, and we’re going to discuss them later on this article.

When is the best time to expose your dog to sunlight?

Like humans, the best time for dogs to get raw sunlight exposure is during the most important periods of the day – at early morning/sunrise, midday, and sunset/late afternoon.

Later in this article, we’re going to talk about how much sun they need every day.

Sunlight is important for your dog to trigger his body’s essential metabolic pathways.

When the sunlight gets in contact with your dog’s retina and skin, it provides a huge effect on your dog’s circadian rhythm that helps promote good sleep.

Why do dogs like to lay in the sun?

You may have noticed, dogs love to sunbathe.

Sometimes, they even have a favorite spot where they can get enough exposure from sunlight? Why do they do this?

One reason is because it feels nice and warm, and second is because it’s a source of Vitamin D.

The warmth that the sun brings to our dog’s body helps regulate their body’s temperature. As we may all know, most dogs, if not all, prefer warm feelings more than cold.

This is also one of the reasons why they love to cuddle with their family.

Not only that, but exposure to sunlight also helps regulate their sleep schedules just like humans.

Although, everything should be done in moderation, and that includes exposure to sunlight.

happy dog and owner

How much sun do dogs need?

Dog’s needs vary depending on their breed, there’s no exact answer for this question.

However, we can determine their sunlight needs based on their size.

Smaller breeds, such as Chihuahua and Shih Tzu can have a 20- to 30 minute walk twice per day, while larger breeds, such as Akita and Golden Retriever can do 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Also, you have to consider your environment and the climate you live in. You might want to do less if the sun is extremely intense.

Make sure to keep their sunlight exposure balanced as too much sunlight can cause potential health risks, such as sunburn and heat exhaustion. This is more common for dogs with short noses, such as Pit Bulls and Pugs.

Also, make sure to closely monitor your dog’s behavior when he’s exposed to sunlight.

If he’s showing signs of discomfort, heavy panting, or any signs of heat stroke, immediately carry him back inside.

When is sunlight good for dogs?

Even if dogs don’t get enough Vitamin D from sunlight, it is important that they get exposed to it.

Keep in mind that raw sunlight is what they need, meaning, they actually need to be outside to get the sunlight instead of the light that passes through the glass window or some artificial light sources.

So, what does it actually bring to your dog?

First, let’s talk about the Vitamin D that we and our dogs get from the raw sunlight.

Vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone since our dog’s body creates it when the sunlight gets in contact with their skin.

It is also considered a vitamin since our dog cannot absorb calcium without Vitamin D.

Having said that, it is important for our dog’s bone development, joint health, as well as muscle and nerve control since the Vitamin D that is stored in the body’s liver and fatty tissues helps in regulating the calcium and phosphorus balances in our dog’s body.

Not only that, Vitamin D also encourages kidney conservation of calcium, thus helping the body to preserve it.

Therefore, Vitamin D helps in prevention of heart disease and kidney failure in dogs.

Aside from getting Vitamin D, sunlight has more important benefits for our dogs.

First, it improves their mood. Sunlight helps in more production of serotonin – a hormone that stabilizes our mood and happiness, thus reducing depression and anxiety for our dogs.

Sunlight also improves the healing process of our dog’s wounds, cuts, bruises, scrapes, and illnesses.

Since we know that sunlight is essential in joint health and bone formation, it helps strengthen our dog’s immune system, therefore preventing sickness and illnesses.

Lastly, sunlight stimulates comfortable and restful sleep.

Sunlight aids in balancing the circadian rhythm and sleep cycle by assisting in the production of melatonin.

a dog in the wilderness

When does sunlight get bad for dogs?

Of course, everything should be done in moderation.

Just like us, too much exposure to sunlight can give our dogs higher risk of developing skin cancer. Not only that, it can also cause sunburn.

The sensitivity of a dog’s skin depends on every breed.

Of course, hairless dogs, as well as those with short and thin coats are more prone to getting sunburn.

Meanwhile, those with short noses, as I mentioned earlier, are more prone to heat exhaustion.

If you are not sure of how much sunlight exposure your dog needs, it is best to consult with your veterinarian.

Also, when keeping your dog is out in the neighborhood or even in your backyard, make sure that he has access to shade at all times.

It’s better if he can go back inside your house whenever he wants by providing him with a doggie door.

You will also need to provide him with fresh water in case he gets dehydrated from being exposed to the sun.

If you’re not at home, it’s best not to let him stay out in the yard unless he has access to come inside the house.

You may also give him dog sunscreen to protect his skin from the intense heat of the sun.

This is more important if you’re going to spend the day outside, such as the beach or park.

What will happen if your dog lacks sunlight exposure?

Since we know that Vitamin D, which our dogs get from the raw sunlight, helps in the production of calcium, a deficiency in Vitamin D can cause brittleness of our dog’s bones.

Not only that, but it can also lead to development of osteomalacia and rickets.

In addition to this, lack of calcium also hinders proper functioning of our dog’s muscles and nerves.

In a more severe side effect of Vitamin D deficiency, our dogs have an increased chance of developing congestive heart failure and high possibility of getting cancer.

If you are wondering if your dog lacks sunlight exposure, you may notice him getting depressed or having too little energy.

If a dog looks disinterested in everything, letting him out under the sun may be of great help to bring back his lost energy and enthusiasm.

beautiful dog on a sunlit autumn ground

Another sign is disrupted sleep. If your dog is showing strange sleep behavior, such as sleeping all day or not sleeping at all, it may be because he lacks sunlight exposure.

As discussed earlier, sunlight greatly helps in promoting restful sleep.

Keep in mind that everything should be done in moderation.

No more, no less. Too much and too less sunlight exposure can bring bad effects for our dog, so it is important that you know how to balance their sunlight needs.

And that ends today’s article. If you enjoyed today’s content or find it helpful, make sure to share it with your family and friends.