Can Dogs Get a Sunburn?

Have you ever heard of a dog getting a sunburn? Are you worried your dog could get sunburned when they spend time outside during the summer months? How do you take care of a dog’s skin to protect it from getting burned, anyway? 

If you’ve ever caught yourself worrying about your dog’s skin in the sun, you’re not alone. Many dog owners focus on their dogs’ skin health during summer, and it’s important to pay attention to your pet’s needs during these sunnier months. We’ll give you a quick rundown of information about dogs, sunburns, and what you can do to help. Because yes, dogs can get sunburns.

can dogs get a sunburn

Which Dogs are at Risk of Sunburn?

Although any dog can potentially get a sunburn under the right circumstances, there are some dogs that are more likely to become sunburned than others. Hairless dogs are much more prone to sunburn than other breeds simply because they have more skin exposed to the sun.

Additionally, dogs who have pale noses may be more at risk of sunburn, too. Whippets and Dalmatians are some examples of dogs who fit this category. Finally, dogs who have very short or light coats may be at risk of sunburn as well.

What are the Risks of Frequent Sunburn in Dogs?

Just like humans, dogs can experience several risk factors from frequent sunburns. It is possible for dogs to have skin cancer because of sunburns, and there are multiple types of skin cancer that may affect dogs, as well.

Additionally, dogs may experience worsening of some known conditions if they have moderate to severe sunburns. And of course, sunburns can be very uncomfortable and painful, too. Your dog may try to scratch or lick a sunburn and could cause hot spots and other skin problems because of this behavior.

Is Human Sunscreen Safe for Dogs?

No, you should never use human sunscreen on dogs. Human sunscreens contain chemical ingredients that may be potentially fatal to dogs, like PABA and zinc oxide. These ingredients can pose a serious risk to any dog who ingests them, and the chance of ingestion is high since dogs often lick off sunscreen.

You can easily find dog-safe sunscreens at most pet stores. These sunscreens are designed to be waterproof and safe for dogs, even if they are ingested. They also don’t have a strong odor, so they won’t bother your pet. These sunscreens are rated for high sun protection and are excellent solutions for dogs who spend a lot of time in the sun.

Other Sun Protection Options

Yes, you can avoid using sunscreen on your dog if you’re willing to try other alternatives instead. You may choose to use a sun shirt on your pet instead, which can protect most of their body from exposure to UV rays. These shirts or suits are a great solution for hairless dogs or those with very thin or fine coats.

You may also simply keep your dog in the shade or remain indoors during the parts of the day with the brightest sunlight. This solution isn’t always going to work in every situation, but it is a good option to consider.

How to Put Sunscreen on a Dog

Unless you have a hairless dog, you don’t have to put sunscreen on your dog’s whole body. Instead, you should focus on the parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, like the nose, thighs, and tips of the ears.

Do not put sunscreen inside the ears or nose. If you’ll be out all day with your dog, redo their sunscreen every couple of hours.

Treating Dog Sunburns

If your dog has already gotten a sunburn, it’s important to keep them out of the sun until it heals. You may risk worsening the sunburn by allowing your dog to go outside after they are already burned.

Use cool (but not ice cold) compresses on mild sunburns. If your dog has a mild to moderate sunburn, it is safe to use aloe gel or ointments on their skin if the ointment doesn’t contain any other ingredients. For severe sunburns, however, you should take your pet to the vet for treatment.

If your dog has a severe sunburn call or book an appointment online at one of our locations to talk with your Heart + Paw veterinarian.

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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