Can Dogs Get Sunburns? Yes, But Here’s How to Protect Your Pup’s Skin


Can Dogs Get Sunburns? Yes, But Here’s How to Protect Your Pup’s Skin

It might be time to put some dog sunscreen in the bag with yours—just make sure you don’t get them mixed up. By Austin Cannon June 11, 2021 Advertisement Pin FB More Tweet Email Send Text Message Print

You'll certainly be packing sunscreen as summer arrives, whether that's in your beach bag, tote bag, or hiking pack. The thing is: You might need some for your dog, too. 

Just like us humans, pretty much all dogs can get sunburns. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to prevent and treat doggie sunburns. In some cases, you'll do the same things you do for your kiddos or yourself. But you probably shouldn't grab that human SPF 45 off the shelf and start rubbing it onto your dog. 

"There are treatments or remedies for sunburn that we use in people that aren't always safe or recommended for dogs," Randy Wheeler, DVM and executive director of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, tells Daily Paws.

Do Dogs Get Sunburns Like Humans Do?

Yup, pretty much any breed can get sunburned but some dogs are more at risk than others. Namely: dogs with shorter, lighter hair (or none at all) and pups with fairer skin, Wheeler says.

It can take as little as 30–60 minutes on a sunny day for you to end up with a sunburned dog—and nobody wants that!

Wheeler would often see sunburned dogs with irritation near the ears—and inside the ears for pointy-eared dogs—around the eyes, and around lighter-colored noses. 

Surprisingly, your poor dog can even end up with a belly sunburn. Wheeler says the sunlight will reflect up from pavement sometimes, victimizing dogs on a walk—particularly if their legs are short. (Looking at you corgis and dachshunds.)

Other dogs to keep an eye on in the sun: ones who live at higher altitudes (less ozone protection) and ones who've recently had their hair trimmed (less fur means less protection than usual).

dog running on a beach in the sun; do dogs get sunburns?
dog running on a beach in the sun; do dogs get sunburns? Credit: Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd / Getty

Dog Sunburn Treatment and Relief Methods

First, talk to your dogs' veterinarian. They might have some dog-specific products to help out, and if it's a serious burn, they might have you come into the clinic. Otherwise, Wheeler has a few ideas.

You'll be able to tell your dog is sunburned if you see red or pink skin, especially near the more vulnerable areas like the ears, eyes, and nose. You can treat the burns topically by using aloe vera, witch hazel, or coconut oil—soothing products that won't sting your dog's skin, Wheeler says.

If you don't have those on hand, a cool compress on the affected area, like a wet, cool towel, can help your dog feel better. Wheeler has also seen some dog owners give their dogs vitamin E capsules to help repair their skin.

How to Protect Your Dog from the Sun and Prevent Future Sunburns

The easiest way to prevent dogs from getting sunburned is to simply avoid letting your pooch outside for extended periods of time when it's most sunny. That means avoiding playtime or long outings around midday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Wheeler says.

If you do have to go outside during those times, keep to the shade. And while it's not related to sun exposure, make sure your dog has enough water and, generally, doesn't get too hot.  

RELATED: The 8 Best Dog Pools for Fun in the Sun

You can also use some dog sunscreen, Wheeler says. It's widely available, but make sure you talk with your veterinarian about which one to use and how to apply it to your dog.  

Again, you'll want to avoid reaching for the human sunscreen without talking with your vet. Some sunscreens will have ingredients harmful to dogs, like zinc oxide, that can cause gastric problems and vomiting.

Dog Breeds Most Susceptible to Sunburn

These will be your lighter-colored or white dogs, hairless dogs, or dogs with short hair. 

Those include dalmatians, boxers, Chinese crested dogs, and Xoloitzcuintlis (Mexican hairless dogs). Even poodles with lighter fur—white or apricot, for example—can find themselves at a higher risk for sunburn, Wheeler says.

While it's good to know whether your dog might be at great risk, you should just assume that your dog can get sunburned. So limit that time outside in the heat and invest in some dog sunscreen to make summertime more fun for the whole fam—fur family members included.

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