Sunburns in dogs aren’t alien phenomena to most dog owners. If you had no idea that sunburn is as possible to most dogs as it is to humans, then you have a golden opportunity to learn more about sunburns in dogs and the best way to prevent or treat them from this detailed article from dog lovers with an immense interest towards their well-being and your peace of mind as a dog owner.
Dogs most susceptible to sunburn
Some dogs, just like humans, are more susceptible to sunburns than the rest. These sunburns in dogs develop when they are over-exposed to the sun’s UV rays. A good example is white dogs which underneath their fur tend to have a skin that is fairer than other dogs. This fair skin has greater potential for damage from the sun. Hairless dogs and those with hair that is naturally thin are also more likely to get sunburned or suffer from such life-threatening conditions as skin cancer.
You should also note that your dog isn’t safe from sunburns just because they don’t fall in either of the categories we outlined above as being highly susceptible to getting sunburns. It doesn’t matter how thick your dog’s coat is, they will at some point get sunburns because they all have areas on their bodies that are either vulnerable due to less or a complete lack of fur. For example, such sensitive areas as the belly and ears tend to have lesser fur and delicate skin and these, therefore, are more likely to suffer from sunburns.
Some dog breeds that are more likely to suffer from sun burns due to a fur coat that is considerably thin include:
- Boxer dogs
- Chinese crested dogs
Below is a screenshot for dog breeds that are highly likely to get sunburned.
Can dogs get tan?
If you are thinking ‘hey, this isn’t fair. If my dog can get a sunburn, can he get a tan too while he is at it?’ Here is the short of it – yes, dogs too can get a sun tan. Tans in dogs are, however, more difficult to recognize. Tans in dogs are made possible by melanocytes, which are cells present on their skins which have sensitivity to light. This means that your pet has a skin structure that is very similar to yours and therefore likely to get a good tan. Therefore, when your dog’s skin is exposed to UV-B radiation, the melanocytes are activated and subsequently melanin levels are increased resulting in a skin color that is brownish. Tans are commonly seen in three parts of your dog’s body- the tips of their ears, the tips of their nose and their underside.
If all the signs point to your dog having a sunburn, you can use the home remedies below to treat this condition.
First, the most popular and effective reliefs for sunburns in dogs are Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera. These are applied on the areas that are affected by gently dabbing or rubbing them. They will also quicken the healing process. You can also rehydrate your dog’s skin using such herbal moisturizers as Sheapet.
If you want your dog to heal and be free of scarring, Vitamin E oil is another great home remedy.
And, although most people presume that their dog’s sunburn can be treated using a cold compress or a cool, relaxing bath, this is mostly untrue. These solutions will do great in relieving your dog’s sunburn for the moment but they won’t be a lasting remedy.
However, if your dog happens to have serious sunburns that may not be treated using home remedies, you should resort to over the counter medication.
Over the counter medication
Over the counter remedies are for dog sunburns that are too extensive for home remedies. Most over the counter medications for people with sunburns tend to work just fine on dogs too. These medications in most cases won’t irritate your dog in spite of them being specifically tailored for humans. However, whenever you decide to use these medications on your pet, you should always ensure the area you are treating isn’t easily reached by your dog’s ever-curious tongue as your dog may lick off an ointment that is harmful when ingested.
Pains inflicted on your dog by sunburns can also be reduced by such topical sprays as Lanacane and Solarcine because they contain local anesthetics. These may turn out to be very helpful whenever your dog gets severe sunburns. You can check out these topical sprays on Amazon by following the embedded links.
If your dog’s sunburns don’t respond to over the counter medication then contact your vet as soon as possible.
When to talk to your vet
Sunburns tend to be more of a nuisance and a minor source of irritation for your dog more often than not. However, if your dog gets blisters or happens to have sunburns that seem to affect more than one of their skin’s layers, then it may be high time you got your veterinarian involved. This also applies to situations where your dog suffers from sunburn pains that refuse to subside when both home remedies and over the counter medication have been tried. You are always advised to get the attention of your veterinarian whenever you feel something amiss in your pet.
How you can prevent dog sunburn
Prevention is better than cure. Instead of waiting for your dog to get sunburned, you can always take extra steps towards ensuring this unpleasant ordeal doesn’t affect your dog’s peace of mind and general wellbeing. These steps include:
- Avoid direct sunlight- Your dog should stay out of direct sunlight as often as possible. This will prevent overexposure to UV rays that result in sunburns.
- Cover sensitive, exposed areas with special sunscreen- Your dog’s exposed parts can be protected using special sunscreen whenever they are out playing in sunny weather. However, it is highly advised you refrain from applying sunscreen meant for humans on dogs as they may contain such ingredients as zinc which is toxic to animals.
- Use protective outfits- Protective clothing for dogs not only makes them adorable but they also help in protecting them against rays from the sun that may be dangerous. Dogs have such outfits as sun shirts and goggles that work great towards providing the extra protection they need when they are out in the sun.
- Avoid shaving your dog- like we established before, dogs with little fur covering are more susceptible to sunburns. You should refrain from shaving them especially in the summer or shave off as little fur as it’s possible.
- Don’t forget to hydrate- Hydration is vital for your pet. It may not provide prevention against sunburns but it will most definitely keep their skin well moisturized and avoid overheating. You should therefore always carry a collapsible water bowl for fresh water whenever you and your dog are out in the summer.
Sunscreen is essential in preventing sunburns in dogs. You should, however, make sure you use sunscreens that are meant only for dogs as they use a safe combination of ingredients for your pet. You can check out these dog sunscreens that are available on Chewy.
And, for extra precaution, look for a sunscreen that is waterproof, unscented and one that comes with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30.
You can also visit the American Kennel Club website to find out more on whether your dog should wear sunscreen.
Coconut oil for dog sunburn
Coconut oil hasn’t been proven as a treatment for sunburns in dogs yet. You can, however, use for moisturizing your dog’s skin and as a remedy for minimizing itching and peeling.
How do I tell if my dog is sunburned?
Symptoms of sunburns in dogs vary depending on the severity of the burn. However, the common signs are usually a pink and sensitive skin and such signs of discomfort as whimpering, shying away from touch and scratching. You may also see such signs as peeling skin or skin that is dry and flaking. Such signs as skin ulcers, hair loss and skin infections may also point to burns that are more severe in nature and warrant a veterinarian’s attention.
You can also identify how serious your dog’s sunburn is according to the following classification:
- 1st Degree Burn- This is a superficial burn which impacts your dog’s outermost skin layer. This may only cause mild pain and redness.
- 2nd Degree Burn- This is a burn that is partial-thickness. This type of burn results in damage that is deeper and it may affect the dermis and epidermis, causing blisters to appear.
- 3rd Degree Burn- This burn is the most severe. It may cause damage to your dog’s deepest skin layers and subcutaneous tissues. It requires a professional’s attention and the period of healing is quite prolonged.
Can I put Aloe Vera on my dog to prevent sunburn
As we indicated in our best home remedies section, Aloe Vera is a great succor and healing aid for sunburns in dogs. However, if you want to prevent sunburns on your dog, use these solutions that we have provided.
Can dogs get sun stroke
Dogs too can experience a heatstroke if they are not able to lower the temperature of their body by panting. Heatstroke in a dog may be fatal so if you see any signs that indicate your dog has a heatstroke, you should move them to an area that is cool and shaded and then call your veterinarian immediately.
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Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org