With the spring and summer heat intensifying in the sky, most pet owners are packing a tube of sunscreen with them for their outdoor adventures. But have your thought about how you’re going to protect Fido’s skin?
Dogs are capable of getting sunburned, just like humans. Short-haired dogs are the most susceptible to getting a sunburn, but all dogs can experience this painful burn, so don’t assume that your pup’s hair will keep its skin protected.
Keeping your pooch’s skin safe from the sun
If your dog has medium-length or long hair, it may be slightly protected from the sun. However, hair alone is usually not enough to adequately shield your dog’s skin from the harsh rays, especially if you’ll be outside for long periods of the day. Areas like the nose, belly, legs and ears are particularly susceptible to burning.
Use these tips to protect your pup from sunburn:
- Canine sunscreen products: You shouldn’t slather sunblock designed for humans onto your dog, because it may contain chemicals that could make your pup sick. However, many companies make dog-safe sunscreens that you can apply before heading outside. The sunscreens work very similarly to human sunscreens, protecting against sunburns and UV damage that could lead to skin cancer. Make sure to apply a generous amount to the areas your dog is most likely to get sunburned and reapply per the instructions, especially if your dog is swimming.
- Find an area with shade: You wouldn’t want to be stuck under the sun’s heat all day, and neither does your dog. If you have plans to be out with your pup under the summer sun for many hours, make sure your destination has a shaded area where your pup can lay down and relax outside of the immediate sunlight. If your dog will be out in your backyard for many hours, create a shaded space by hanging a tarp or installing a dog house. Not only will shade help protect your dog from sunburn, but it can be instrumental in preventing other serious issues like heatstroke on very hot days.
- Don’t shave: Many pet parents want to help their pet stay cool in summer by shaving their coats, but this actually can lead to a higher chance of sunburn. Without a coat of fur to protect it, your dog has less protection against the sun.
It’s also extremely important that you consider paw protection when you and your pup are trotting along on hot concrete or pavement. While your dog’s paw pads are unlikely to be burned by the sun’s rays, they can be burned by hot temperatures on the ground, resulting in painful, dry and inflamed paw pads.
When in doubt, take extra precautions when it comes to your dog and the sun’s harsh rays. Not all dogs burn easily, and some are less likely to burn as easily as humans, but it’s much better to be safe than sorry, especially since a sunburn on your pup can turn a fun beach day into a painful nightmare.
Identifying signs of sun damage
Whether you forgot to pack your pup’s sunscreen or the sun was just too strong all day, your dog may develop a sunburn at one point or another. If this happens, it’s important that you are able to identify the burn and administer the appropriate treatment.
Symptoms of sunburns in dogs are similar to those in humans and may include:
- Red skin
- Dry, cracked skin
- Scratching, licking and biting caused by itchy skin
- Whimpering, particularly when the area is touched
- Fever (from very severe sunburns)
Some burns are much more severe than others, but all sunburns are sure to be at least mildly uncomfortable, if not very painful for our pups.
The first kind of sunburn dogs can get is superficial, which means that the topmost layer of skin is affected. These burns can still cause red, painful skin inflammation, and dogs may whimper or avoid being touched to avoid pain. Superficial burns don’t often blister and tend to heal relatively quickly.
The second and more severe form of sunburn is a deep burn. This type of burn is comparable to a second-degree burn in humans and usually affects multiple layers of skin, causing blisters and significant pain.
If you notice that your dog has developed a sunburn, it should not be exposed to the sun any more until it heals. Keep a close eye on the burn to see if blisters develop or not. If no blisters are present, you may be able to treat the burn at home with cool compresses and topical creams for pain relief.
If blisters are present, you may want to seek veterinary help to determine the severity of the burn and whether your dog needs more intense treatment to recover.
With the right combination of sun protection and shade breaks, your dog can enjoy long days in the sun without the painful effects of sunburn.