Do Dogs Get Vitamin D From the Sun?

Chocolate lab with hazel eyes laying on some sand in the sun

As a dog owner, you always want your dogs to be happy and healthy. Much like humans, dogs need quality nutrition to stay healthy such as Vitamin D for strong bones and teeth. With so much daily outdoor activity, do dogs get vitamin D from the sun?

Despite being primarily outdoor animals in the past, dogs do not absorb Vitamin D from the sun.  The sun does not provide the same effect as it does for humans. While they do require outdoor sun exposure, they do not reap the solar vitamin D benefits on top of that.

Because of this, it is critical as a dog parent that you find a way around this problem to help increase your dog’s Vitamin D intake. Especially since, thanks to millennials, you take your dog everywhere with you. Gone are the days of your dog living outside.

But how should you go about this, and how important is it? 

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

How Dogs Absorb Vitamin D

With such high importance and so many roles, how can you go about getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D to your dogs?

As sunshine is not the answer, people must rely on other viable options: getting it into their tummy to be processed through digestion. When it comes to the Occam’s razor solution to problems, dogs are no exception! After all, they are little eating machines!

As stated by AnimalBiome, dogs actually absorb vitamins and minerals through their stomachs and intestines better, especially Vitamin D. Once vitamin D is processed through the stomach all the way through the kidneys, it’s finally usable. It becomes a hormone called calcitriol, making its storage home in fatty tissue. 

From there it is processed through your dog to help build strong bones, ensure muscles run smoothly, and nerves continue to actively receive signals.

Any time you play with your dog or let them run out their energy at a dog park, you are watching vitamin D hard at work.

So now that you know how you dog absorbs it, let’s identify its importance. 

Is a Dog’s Vitamin D Intake Really Important?

It’s hard to believe that this particular vitamin might be a key component for your dog.

Dogs need strong bones and teeth to run, eat, play fetch, and just feel good. On top of that, vitamin D in dogs also plays a role in several of a dog’s daily needs and functions such as:

  • Fighting inflammation
  • Nervous reactions, such as registering threats and reacting
  • Maintaining musculature and cardiovascular health

This means that Vitamin D can ensure heart, tendons, muscles, and quick responses are firing on all cylinders for play time or if they need to keep their owners safe.

With that in mind, there has to be a way to get your dog all of the vitamins, including D, so that they keep their tails wagging and their faces smiling for when you come home from work.

Otherwise, deficiency can cause big problems for your little pup.

What if Your Dog is Vitamin D Deficient?

Just like with humans, being deficient in Vitamin D can have harmful long-term effects on our dogs. Dogs rely on this fat-soluble vitamin daily for their interactions with you.

If a deficiency exists, it could slowly affect function for your dog. 

Some of the systems a dog with Vitamin D deficiency may experience issues with are:

  • Cardiovascular System
  • Endocrine Systems
  • Immune System
  • Nervous System

As reported by the National Animal Supplement Council, this means they could experience congestive heart failure, deformities of the skeletal structure, and even cancer.

25 (OH) DRelative Risk
< 40 ng/ml3.9
< 60 ng/ml2.0
< 80 ng/ml1.4
< 100 ng/ml1.1
> 100 ng/ml0.2 (benefit)
Courtesy of Dogs Naturally Magazine

However, just as with deficiency, overabundance can also cause toxicity.

That’s right; there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. In an effort to help your dog, it is possible to accidentally give them too much vitamin D to process. 

This can lead to similar issues such as anorexia, skeletal development issues in young dogs, and even mineralization of the soft tissue. Finding a balanced way to deliver vitamin D and knowing how your dogs best receive it can help you regulate their ingestion to prevent unhealthiness and issues down the line.

How to Get Vitamin D in Your Dog’s Diet

Paying thorough attention to what you are feeding your dog can be a lifesaver.

Remember: while it may be easiest to grab the cheapest bag, you need to know if it is the best option for your best buddy. When you are at the store, take a moment to read the dog food bag’s ingredients as they always relay different minerals and crude vitamins within the contents to provide easy comparison.

An alternative is providing extra nutrition through your dog’s daily snacks. Sneaking your dog a little bite of what you are having (barring the food isn’t on the “no flight list” that can be found in this article) is far from unheard of. 

If you feel guilty about it, don’t!

There are many dog-friendly snacks or food additions that can up their vitamin intake.

Examples are:

  • Liver
  • Fish, such as salmon or tuna
  • Beef 
  • Egg Yolks
  • Dairy Products like cheese

That slice of cheese or chunk of tuna you snuck your dog while you made your sandwich was actually helping them. You can swap out their normal dog biscuit or bully stick with an example from above.

If you are not big on handling food in such a way (no one likes greasy hands), there is a simpler alternative: mix it in with their food.

Can Dogs Take Vitamin D Pills?

Ingestion is the best way for dogs to get nutrition (in whole food form), as over the counter vitamin pills are never a solid option.

It may seem simple, but in fact, giving your dog vitamin pills in this manner can cause toxicity and reactions. These reactions can be as subtle as depression or lethargy at the start and eventually escalate to renal or kidney failure and calcification.

Nowadays, there are marketed vitamins specially formulated for dogs that you can buy at the store. These packages will also have easily comparable content labels so you can identify which is the best buy. This is the better option over OTC pills; however, it is critical to consult your veterinarian.

In many cases, choosing a quality food and treat regimen may supersede the necessity of vitamins in general and, again, lead to a toxicity issue. Your vet will be able to consult if there are any further adjustments to be made to their diet and help devise the best plan for your dog.

The Takeaway

Now that you know and understand how important your dog’s Vitamin D nutrition is, you can take the important steps to help them get started on their healthy journey and long life.

Making better dietary choices can be a fantastic start to helping your dog on a daily basis. Be sure to check your current kibble or wet food options to see if an adjustment needs to be made.

Add a few special treats to your regular grocery list to surprise them with. Not only will you be making sure your dog gets the nutrition they need, but you can see their excitement when trying something new.

Finally, always consult your veterinarian to be sure your dog is getting the best treatment and health options available to them. Different breeds have different requirements, and they will be able to help narrow the field for you.

And as always, continue to Live, Laugh, Love, and Scratch our bellies often!

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

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