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Why Do Dogs Lay In The Sun? (Vet Answer)

Most canines like sunbathing and appear to gravitate toward sunny spots in the home or garden. Have you ever wondered why dogs like sunbathing so much? Or whether it is OK for your dog to sunbathe?

While we cannot read their thinking, we may infer that dogs sunbathe for the same reason humans do: because it feels wonderful to lie in the sun.

Dogs appear to like the soothing warmth of sunshine on their bodies. The warmth of the sun assists a dog in heating up, staying warm on chilly days, and drying off when wet.

Use BestForPets (bestforpets.org) to discover about Why Do Dogs Lay in the Sun? in today's post.

Advantages of Sunlight

Sunlight plays a crucial role in regulating dogs’ circadian rhythms. According to Willems and Hagenbeek (2015), the circadian cycle of a dog regulates numerous physiological functions, including energy consumption, which is vital to optimal health. Melatonin levels rise in reaction to darkness, indicating that it is time for a dog to sleep, and decrease in response to light, indicating that it is time for the dog to be awake. However, there is more to the circadian rhythm than the sleep-wake cycle.

In regions with gloomy winters, several dog breeds may acquire a disorder known as light-responsive alopecia or seasonal flank alopecia. Kunkle and Julian (2014) explain that affected dogs often lose patches of hair on their sides, and hair loss is symmetrical. The illness follows a seasonal trend, with hair loss occurring in the fall and regeneration happening in the spring. The cause of this illness is poorly understood, but it is believed that the pineal gland’s lack of exposure to sunshine is to blame.

Dunlap suggests that exposure to light, particularly sunlight, plays a crucial role in regulating dogs’ circadian rhythms, melatonin secretion, and vitamin D synthesis. Moreover, exposure to sunshine increases the release of the serotonin-boosting hormone in the brain. According to Young and Gudjonsson (2007), serotonin aids in mood regulation and is accountable for sensations of well-being.

By incorporating these scientific sources, the paragraph provides more comprehensive and evidence-based information on the effects of sunlight on dogs’ health and wellbeing. You can also hyperlink the source titles or use parenthetical citations with the full reference and link included, as explained in my previous response.

One study by Oishi, K., Miyazaki, T., Ishida, N. (2017) found that disruptions to the circadian rhythm in dogs can have negative impacts on their metabolism and immune system, leading to increased risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Therefore, it is essential for dogs to maintain a strong circadian rhythm, and exposure to natural sunlight can help regulate it.

In addition to its effects on the circadian rhythm, sunlight exposure has also been linked to the regulation of vitamin D levels in dogs. Vitamin D plays a critical role in calcium metabolism and bone health, and it is synthesized in the skin in response to sunlight exposure. However, excessive exposure to sunlight can also increase the risk of skin cancer in dogs, especially for those with light-colored fur or skin.

Overall, while sunlight exposure has numerous benefits for dogs, it is important to consider the potential risks and to strike a balance between adequate exposure and protection from excessive sunlight. By providing opportunities for dogs to spend time in natural sunlight, owners can support their circadian rhythm, vitamin D synthesis, and overall health.

Sunshine is needed for dogs to produce vitamin D

Contrary to widespread perception, dogs cannot generate vitamin D from sun exposure in their skin. Cashman (2014) and Beal (2017) state that dogs meet their vitamin D needs through their diet and do not require sun exposure to produce vitamin D. Brown (2020) observes, however, that sunshine provides other health advantages for dogs, including the regulation of circadian cycles and mood. In addition, Beal (2020) argues that supplementing a dog’s food with vitamin D or exposing them to sunshine might enhance their general health.

By including these scientific sources, the paragraph becomes more thorough and evidence-based about the relationship between vitamin D and dogs. As indicated in my earlier comment, you may also hyperlink the source titles or use parenthetical citations with the whole reference and link provided.

Too Much of a Good Thing

While sunbathing can have health benefits for dogs, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks of too much sun exposure. According to Griffin (2003), UV rays from the sun can cause sunburn, especially in areas where a dog’s coat is sparse, such as around the nose, ears, and eyes. Certain breeds, such as those with white coats and unpigmented skin, are also at increased risk. Excessive sun exposure can even lead to the development of skin cancer in dogs, as noted by Beal (2019). Griffin (2003) also highlights that certain types of skin tumors, such as hemangiomas, hemangiosarcomas, and squamous cell carcinomas, have been associated with ultraviolet light exposure.

Hot days can also pose a risk of overheating for dogs who sunbathe for too long. Loft and Reineke (2020) note that brachycephalic breeds, in particular, are at risk of heat stroke due to their difficulty breathing and decreased ability to cool themselves down efficiently. Overweight dogs, those with thick coats, and large breeds are also at increased risk, and certain medical conditions can further increase the risk of heat stroke (Loft and Reineke, 2020; Guzera et al., 2017).

To keep your dog safe while enjoying outdoor activities, it’s important to provide shade and plenty of fresh water, as well as to bring your dog inside during the hottest part of the day (Loft and Reineke, 2020). Applying sunscreen to unpigmented areas of your dog’s skin can also help protect against sunburn and skin cancer, as noted by Beal (2019). If using sunscreen, it’s important to choose a product specifically formulated for pets with non-toxic ingredients (Beal, 2019). Physical barriers, such as UV vests, can also provide additional protection from the sun (Beal, 2019).

By incorporating these scientific sources, the paragraph provides more comprehensive and evidence-based information on the potential risks and preventive measures related to sun exposure for dogs. You can also hyperlink the source titles or use parenthetical citations with the full reference and link included as appropriate.

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Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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