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Is your dog crazy to lie in the sun?

A golden retriever between the flowers

Have you ever noticed your dog sunbathing outside? No matter how hot it is, Eva loves to lie down and take in the sun. Especially living in Dubai, I have to limit her time going outside because it is simply too hot. However, when you check with your dog friends, you probably realised that many dogs like to spread under the warming sun rays. Apparently, dogs love the heat. But why? Does it have anything to do with the warmth? Or vitamin D? When is it too hot to be outside? Is your dog crazy to lie in the sun? Keep reading to find an answer to all these questions.

The happy hormone

It seems dogs love the sun, but also tend to overheat quickly. So why do they keep taking these hot risks? Sunlight increases the levels of serotonin in your four-legged friend. So in other words, it actually makes your dog happy. If you found something that made you happy, I’m sure you would like to do more of it too, right? Exposure to sunlight and increased serotonin levels also help your pup sleep better. That seems like a good reason for your furry friend to keep chasing the sun.  

The heat also helps with stiff muscles and joints. Just like it helps you to use a heat pack, your dog is using a natural heat pack to relieve their pains and cramps, called the sun. Especially with older dogs, it helps them warm their body and ease their discomforts.

Normally dogs should be able to determine for themselves when their body temperature is rising too high when they are sunbathing. However, it is best to always keep an eye on your pup and provide plenty of cool shaded space and cool water and snacks for whenever your dog wants to cool down. In some situations your dog may fall asleep or their inner radar is not working properly. In those cases, you should kindly remind your furry friend to get out of the sun and recover before they run the risk of a heat stroke or sunburn. And of course when you’re living in a tropical or hot climate, you should limit your dog’s time outside in general during the summer months.

Vitamin D

You have probably seen on your dog’s food packaging before, it contains added vitamins and minerals. One of those is probably vitamin D. Similarly for us, vitamin D is an important nutrient for dogs. It supports your dog’s kidneys and liver in maintaining normal calcium and phosphorous levels in the body. As you might have heard before, calcium is needed for healthy bones and muscles.

When your dog’s body detects low levels of calcium it will activate the stored inactive levels of vitamin D, to optimise the absorption of calcium. At the same time, their kidneys are informed to limit the removal of calcium, until the calcium levels are healthy again. In other words, your dog’s body knows how to control calcium levels with the help of vitamin D.

How to get vitamin D(og)

There are multiple ways your dog can get the needed levels of vitamin D. You have probably been told before, you need to go outside in the sunlight to absorb vitamins. However, if you live in a cloudy country or in an extremely hot and sunny country which limits your outdoor time, don’t be worried. Our dog’s skin is not as efficient in converting sunlight into vitamin D as we are. The Vitamins are formed on top of the skin in their fur. So when they groom themselves after a sun session, they are basically taking the vitamin D from their coat. Therefore, it is important they get the right vitamins and minerals through their food.

Ingredients such as egg yolks, yoghurt, fish and liver will all provide your dog with much-needed vitamin D and therefore stronger, healthier bones and muscles. Only give your dog vitamin D supplements if these are recommended by your vet. Don’t give your own supplements to your dog. Otherwise, you may risk an overdose.

However, going outside regularly brings along other health benefits for you and your dog. Exercise, fresh air and meeting with friends during your daily walks are all benefiting your and your dog’s health as well. Be sure to use sun protection when you’re going to be outside. Even if it doesn’t look very bright, the sun rays can impact your and your pooch’s skin. Just like us, our dogs can get sunburned too. Mostly their fur protects them, however, some dogs have lighter hair or a thinner coat. Therefore, keep an eye on your dog’s skin and NEVER shave your dog (unless medically required by your vet).

Too much or too little vitamin D?

Anything that is too much or too little can be harmful, for both you and your furry friend. On average dogs should have about 100 to 120 ng/mL of the inactive form of vitamin D in their blood to be healthy. If your dog gets too much vitamin D over a longer period of time, it may lead to vitamin D toxicity. Your dog’s body will not be able to get rid of vitamin D fast enough, which leads to higher absorption rates of calcium from the bones. In other words, the calcium levels in your dog will be too high, which is called hypercalcaemia. The symptoms can be seizures, vomiting, excessive drinking, lethargy and diarrhoea.

On the other hand, if your dog’s not getting enough it may lead to a deficiency of vitamin D. There are a couple of ways you can detect a deficiency. Your dog’s bones and muscles will weaken, they will have extensive hair loss and sleep more. Ultimately, these can lead to heart failure. If you suspect any vitamin issues, your vet will be able to take a blood test to see what is causing the issues.

Everybody likes hot dogs

So is your dog crazy for lying in the sun? No, not at all. If your dog is anything like Eva, they love sunbathing. However, sometimes the weather just seems too hot. Therefore, it’s always good to use our own common sense. Is it too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your pup. Keep an eye on overheating symptoms and enjoy the sun in a responsible way as mentioned in our latest summer magazine.

And now you know why they run for the sun. Firstly it actually makes them happy by the increased levels of serotonin it produces in their bodies and secondly for a limited level of vitamin D.

So next time your four-legged friend is enjoying their tan session, join them while protecting yourself from the sun as well. If you’re looking for more tips on how to survive a hot day with your pup, check out these 5 proven ways to help beat the summer heat.

Does your dog like lying in the sun? What is their favourite sunny spot?

Thanks for reading!

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