Warm summer weather means lots of fun outdoor activities, but it also means exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays. It's important to keep this in mind when planning your favourite summer activities with your dog.
As a pet parent, you want to offer your dog a variety of fun and exciting summer activities, but it's important to know the risks and be prepared.
You may think that your dog's fur will provide protection from the sun. While this is true to some extent, they can still get a sunburn if they spend enough time outside on a hot summer day.
Dogs with shorter fur or less are more susceptible to sunburn, even mild sunburn, and all dogs have delicate skin areas around their nose, eyes, ears, and inner thighs that have no protection at all and can easily sustain a severe sunburn and skin ulcers on the sunburned skin.
Symptoms of Dog Sunburns
Being able to identify symptoms of a dog sunburn can help you apply the best treatments and avoid more severe reactions.
There are varying degrees of doggie sunburns, and some symptoms can easily be mistaken for other types of skin issues or skin cancer (such as squamous cell carcinoma), allergies, skin masses, or bug bites.
If you notice any of the following signs after your dog has spent too much time outside on a sunny day, then they may have a sunburn with skin damage. Frequent severe sunburn can lead to the development of skin cancer, especially on the ear tips of a dog.
Signs of sunburn or sun damage on your furry friend:
- Red skin
- Skin Sensitivity
- Dry cracked skin
- Flaking Skin
- Hair loss
- High body temperature
- Constant scratching
- Development of fungal skin infections
- Severe cases can develop ulcers
Severe sunburns should be treated as an emergency situation. Many of the symptoms above indicate severe sunburn and possible symptoms of heat stroke. Contact your vet immediately.
Dog Breeds that Sunburn Easily
Some dogs are naturally more susceptible to getting a sunburn than others. A dog's fur provides some protection, but different lengths, thickness, and types of hair may provide less natural protection than they need.
Here are a few breeds with less fur or no fur that need more sun protection on hot days than others:
This one is pretty obvious, but dogs with little to no fur are at the highest risk of sunburn. This is because they don't have the natural protection from their fur that most breeds do. Their bare skin is highly sensitive to the hot sun, so limit their sun exposure and use sun protection gear to keep them safe and cool.
While there aren't a lot of naturally hairless breeds, these naked pups should be extra cautious of sun exposure:
- Chinese Crested Dog
- Mexican hairless dogs
- American Hairless Terrier
Even short hair or thin fur provides some level of protection from the sun, but often not quite enough. The short coat allows UV rays to penetrate, leading to sunburns. Some areas of their body will be at even more risk of sunburn, such as where the fur is the thinnest, like their ears, nose, and belly.
Here are some naturally thin hair breeds that sunburn easily:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
Fair Skinned Dogs
White and lighter-coated dogs tend to have the fairest skin pigment, meaning their skin is at a higher risk for sunburn. While a long or double coat may reduce damage, their pink skin is still more sensitive to UV radiation.
- American Pitbull Terriers
- Bull Terriers
- French Bulldogs
How to Prevent Dog Sunburns
The hottest months of the year is when the sun has the biggest potential for harm, but it's also the best season for all of your favourite outdoor adventures with your mutt.
Let's take a look at the top 5 ways to prevent your dog from getting sunburned:
1. Dog Sunscreen
Sunscreen is a great way to prevent sunburns on your dog so that you can keep exploring nature all summer long, but don't use just any old sunscreen.
Not all sunscreens are suitable, so only pick actual dog lotion or spray sunscreens for canines. Human sunscreen contains ingredients like zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs.
Apply dog sunscreen to vulnerable areas to protect from UVB rays on a hot day.
One of our favourite dog sunscreen choices is Parker & Co. Snout Screen. This all-natural sun protector stick is a great way to protect your dog's sensitive snout, delicate ears, and other small but high-risk areas of your dog's body.
Natural sunscreens for dogs don't offer the same sun protection factor (SPF) as human products, so sunscreen alone is not enough to prevent your dog from getting sunburned.
2. Sun Protective Clothing
Cooling gear is a great option for both sun protection and body temperature control. Even on long outings, you can rehydrate a cooling vest for dogs and keep the sun away at the same time. The Kurgo Core Cooling Vest is one of our favourites to keep dogs cool.
Lighter weight options are available too, like the Canada Pooch Sun Sheild Tee. This doggie t-shirt offers plenty of coverage to limit sun exposure without preventing proper body temperature regulation.
3. Find Shade
If you are planning a long outdoor activity, like a hike or camping, make sure you scope out areas with shade so you know where to go when your dog needs to get out of the sun.
4. Off-Peak Hours
Scheduling early morning (before 10 a.m) and evening activities (after 4 p.m) are easy ways to reduce the effects of the sun's rays on your dog. Though it's still plenty warm and lights out, the sun is lower in the sky and not nearly as hot. This doesn't completely eliminate the risk of sunburns, but it does reduce them significantly.
5. Limit Water Activities
It's always refreshing to go for a cool dip on a hot day, and while it may seem like the best way to keep your dog cool, the sun reflects off the surface of the water, which could lead to doggie sunburns.
This doesn't mean you can't take your dog swimming; it just means that you should limit the amount of time your dog is in or on the water and provide shade whenever possible.
How to Treat a Dog Sunburn at Home
Now that you can identify a sunburn on your dog, it's important to know how to treat them properly. Timely treatment can prevent a sunburn from worsening and causing permanent skin damage and hair loss. More importantly, can speed healing and prevent infection during recovery.
Here are a few dog sunburn treatment tips that every pet parent should know:
Cool the Affected Area
If your dog has a sunburn on a large part of their body, then a cool bath, cold compresses, cool towel, or rinse will be more effective on the dog's sunburn.
During this time, your dog should be brought indoors and out of direct sunlight. Further exposure to the sun can cause more damage and slow the healing process.
Aloe Vera on Dog Sunburns
One product that all pet owners should keep in their pet first aid kit is pure aloe vera. It's an invaluable tool for treating sunburns on dogs, but can also be used as a topical treatment for many wounds and bug bites.
Once the pup's skin has been cooled to stop the burn, you should apply a topical treatment designed to help soothe the painful sunburn and rehydrate the skin to prevent discomfort during healing.
One product that is commonly used on human sunburns is aloe vera. The skin may develop blisters, and the topical will help treat the severe burns and lower the dog's risk of scarring and infection.
Prevent Infection with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil acts as a moisturizing lotion to heal damaged skin and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when used topically for treating sunburn. You may need to apply wound dressings if you notice skin changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Dog Sunburn?
Your dog's skin is just as sensitive to the sun as yours. While their fur gives them some protection, prolonged periods in the sun can still leave your dog with a nasty sunburn. But what is a sunburn? and can dogs get a sunburn?
Can Dogs Get a Sunburn?
Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction caused by prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun. This inflammation causes redness and swelling and, eventually, cell damage. As the cells in the outer layer of the skin die, the skin will start to dry and peel.
Does a Dog's Nose Sunburn?
Your dog's nose is the most exposed area of his body. Without fur, your pooch has no way to protect it, so even dogs that are generally at low risk of sun exposure can still easily get a sunburnt schnoz. This should be the first area you consider when deciding how to protect your dog from the sun's harmful rays.
Do Black Dogs Sunburn More?
While all dogs can get a sunburn, it's commonly thought that black dogs may dogs attract more sun and are more likely to get burned. While a black dog may be at higher risk of overheating, the only reason they may be more susceptible to a sunburn is if they have short fur or fair skin that allows the sun to penetrate it.
Is Human Sunscreen Safe for Dogs?
No. In fact, some human sunscreen contains toxic ingredients like zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid. If your dog ingests or licks the toxic substance, contact a pet poison helpline or your dog's veterinarian.
No matter what safety measures you take to protect your dog from sun exposure, make sure your dog stays safe.
Will Witch Hazel Treat Sunburned Skin on Dogs?
Witch hazel helps soothe the sunburn on dogs without stinging the dog's skin. The astringent is an anti-inflammatory to encourage healing of the burns, but it will not prevent sunburn in dogs in vulnerable areas.