It’s a simple fact that without sunlight, the vast majority of life on earth would cease to exist. Everything from animals to plants need sun to grow and thrive.
We know that as humans, we should get regular exposure to natural light in order to stay physically and mentally healthy, but we have to remember that our pets are no different. Dogs, cats, and the like are all mammals, just like us, which means that sunlight isn’t only highly beneficial, but a basic necessity.
In this post, I’ll explain exactly why.
Do Dogs Get Vitamin D from the Sun?
A common folk name for Vitamin D is “the sunshine vitamin”, and this is for a very good reason. The sun is the absolute best source of Vitamin D for humans, and many other mammals.
When the UV rays from the sun come into contact with the skin, they interact with cholesterol in order to promote the production of Vitamin D, which then enters the body.
While a dog’s skin does, in fact, produce Vitamin D much in the same manner as a human, the difference is that the vast majority of it ends up in the fur rather than actually being absorbed into the skin and body.
This means that dogs only get very little Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. As a pet owner, this is the reason why you need to make sure your dog gets an adequate amount of Vitamin D in his diet.
The Importance of Sunlight for Dogs
So, does your dog need sunlight or not?
The simple answer is yes, but as with everything, moderation is the key here.
Just because your dog doesn’t get his Vitamin D from the sun the same way you do doesn’t mean that regular exposure to raw sunlight isn’t important.
Raw sunlight means being outside in the sun, rather than having it shine through a glass window or using artificial light sources.
While you need to ensure that your dog is exposed to sunlight at any stage in his life, it’s particularly vital for helping puppies thrive and grow strong.
But if not for the Vitamin D, why does a dog need sunshine anyway?
As it turns out, there are many other benefits, including:
- Promoting Restful Sleep: Sunlight helps with controlling and regulating the circadian rhythm and sleep cycle by helping to produce melatonin.
- Improving Mood: Sunlight increases the production of serotonin, which keeps depression and anxiety at bay and may improve behaviors such as aggression in dogs.
- Preventing Sickness: Sunlight helps with strengthening the immune system and can be beneficial for joint and bone health.
- Facilitating Healing: Sunlight speeds up the healing process. The body is able to get over illnesses, as well as cuts and scrapes far more quickly.
How to Know If Your Dog Is Getting Enough Sunlight?
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We know that it’s important for dogs to be exposed to the sun, but it’s also important to strike a healthy balance, as we don’t want them to be overexposed due to various potential health risks, like sunburn or heat exhaustion.
Our dogs communicate their wants and feelings to us in many ways, but unfortunately, they can’t always tell us exactly what they need or if they’re not feeling their best.
While you always want to be cautious and seek attention from a veterinarian if you think your dog is ill, there are a few signs that might indicate your good boy is lacking exposure to sunlight.
- Lethargy and/or Depression: Too little sun can cause dogs to exhibit an overall lack of energy. If your dog is moping around or seeming disinterested in much, getting him out into the sunshine may be very helpful.
- Disrupted Sleep: As I mentioned earlier, the sun helps to control circadian rhythms, which is what tells your dog when to wake up and when to sleep. If he tends to sleep all day or has the opposite problem, a lack of sunshine might be to blame.
How Much Sun Does a Dog Need Daily?
While there’s no absolute answer to this question, you can use your dog’s overall size as a good guideline.
Smaller breeds of dogs do best with twice-daily walks that last between 20-30 minutes at a time, while larger breeds can go up to 10-15 minutes longer.
Be sure to carefully monitor and supervise your dog while outside, and immediately get him back inside if he starts to exhibit any signs of heat stroke, such as heavy panting.
Should Dogs Wear Sunscreen?
Unfortunately, too much exposure to raw sunlight can be harmful, causing sunburn or even skin cancer (especially for dogs with short or white fur).
Besides Doggles and paw wax, one of the best ways to protect your dog from the sun is by using sunscreen. But is this safe?
Sure. Even though you shouldn’t share your own sunscreen with your dog, you can seek out a formula specifically designed for pets, and most importantly, without Zine Oxide.
You can apply it to the areas that are most sensitive to the sun, including the nose, tips of the ears, and around the groin and belly area, where fur tends to be sparse.
So, yeah, exposure to sunlight is very important for a dog’s overall health. While the benefits are many, you must practice common sense when out in the sun, and always keep his safety in the forefront of your mind.
Try to limit time outside, take all precautions to avoid sunburn, provide plenty of water and ensure that there’s an ample area of shade available that your dog can easily access if he wishes to.