How to Protect your Dog from Sunburn on National Sunscreen Day

sunglasses on dog

Can My Dog Get Sunburned?

What better way to spend time with your pet than enjoying the great outdoors together? In the summer months, spending time outdoors means being exposed to bright and powerful UV rays. We combat this ourselves with hats, UV resistant clothing, and sunscreen but what are we doing for our pets? Short-haired dog breeds are also susceptible to sunburn and can face some painful and lasting side effects.

What Type Of Dogs Sunburn the Easiest? 

Dogs of all breeds, colors, and environments can be affected by harmful UV rays in the same way their owners are. Dogs with white coats, thin coats, and pink skin are the most susceptible to painful sunburns. Grey-hounds, Whippets, Dalmations, Collies, and hairless breeds are known for being thin coated and/or pink skinned, making them more susceptible to sunburn.

What Does Sunburn Look Like in a Dog?

Typically, signs that your pet has been sunburned develop within 1-3 hours of exposure and can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days up to a week depending on the severity of the burn.  Sunburns in canines can be seen as irritated, pink, or red skin that feels warm and even sensitive to the touch. Some areas on your pet to look for UV damaged skin are the nose, around the eyes, any exposed or thin white sections of coat, and their belly (especially if you have a sunbather). 

Things to help soothe your pets irritated skin can include cool compresses, pet safe oatmeal baths, and aloe vera gel. Responsible pet owners should always consult with their veterinarian before making any treatment decisions at home. Left untreated, sunburnt skin on your pet can become extremely painful and even lead to scaling of the skin and hair-loss. The immediate damage is not the only thing to be concerned about, long-term unprotected UV exposure and sunburns can lead to various skin cancers, the most common type of cancer in dogs.

How To Treat Sunburn on a Dog

The good news is that there are several easy steps you can incorporate into your pet care routine to help protect them from harmful UV rays and painful skin irritations. Sunscreen formulated for dogs is a tried and true preventative sunburn solution. Application of the sunscreen should follow product guidelines and veterinary recommendations; however, most products suggest avoiding direct contact with the eyes, and reapplying the product after water exposure or several hours of wear.

Not only is it important to use sunscreen on your pet, it is equally important to use sunscreen made for pets. Human UV protective lotions are designed for human skin and may contain chemicals or formulations that could be harmful or even toxic to your pet. If you’re worried that your dog may have a skin reaction to a sunscreen lotion or cream, a quick internet search will bring you to a multitude of options for reusable UV protection including sunglasses, sun shirts, and even safety vests. If you have a pet that is especially sensitive to the elements, you may want to consider keeping them indoors during peak hours (10am-4pm in most areas) aside from quick potty breaks, or using multiple methods of sun protection. 

Natural ways to protect your dog’s skin include feeding a diet high in Omegas such as NatrixOne which help protect against UV radiation by boosting the antioxidant levels of the skin. Foods to include in your dog’s summer diet rotation include:

Unprocessed meats contain higher amounts of amino acid histidine which helps the skin and coat protect itself from molecular damage. Red & Green Fruits & Veggies – Watermelon and tomatoes are high in the UV blocking carotenoid, lycopene. Green leafy veggies are also high in carotenoids, also known as plant sunscreen. 

Essential Fatty Acids – Make sure your dog is getting the right ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Supplementing the diet with NatrixOne provides the perfect ratio of these acids and is safe for dogs of all sizes and ages.  Remember to always provide your pet with plenty of cool water and shade while outdoors. Stay safe and enjoy your summer! 

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About the Author

Rich Coleman
Dr. Rich Coleman grew up in Fairfield, Ohio and began his journey into veterinary medicine as a kennel attendant at the age of 15. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati before graduating from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. Dr. Rich took over Plum Veterinary Clinic in December 2006, changed the name to Four Paws Animal Hospital in 2007, built a new facility in 2012 and began a remodel in March 2019 to allow for more growth and opportunities for our community. Dr. Rich Coleman is the Chief Veterinary Officer for NatrixOne™ and completed our 100 dog study in 2018. After seeing results firsthand, he joined the NatrixOne team!