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Can Dogs Get Sunburned? What You Need to Know!

Samantha Reed

By Samantha Reed

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

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Summer is here, and the sun is out in full swing. If you like to take your dog out on outdoor adventures like hikes, beach days, or even your daily runs, you might be surprised to find out that you should be packing sunscreen for your furry friend and your own.

Just like us, our dogs can get sunburned. The skin beneath your dog’s coat is as sensitive as ours, maybe even more so. Your pet is at risk of sunburn, skin cancer, or other complications that come with prolonged sun exposure.

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Do Dogs Get Sunburned?

Certain dog breeds are more likely to get sunburned than others, but as a general rule, all dogs can get a sunburn with prolonged sun exposure. Sunburned dogs can suffer from red, inflamed skin and experience scaly skin and hair loss. Your dog is more likely to experience sunburn in areas with less hair like the belly, nose, ears, paws, and mouth.

It can take as little as 30 minutes to an hour on a regular sunny day for your dog to develop a sunburn. You have to keep an eye on dogs closer to the ground, like Corgis, because they are more at risk for sunburn on skin in their abdominal are due to the UV reflecting off the ground. Also, if you live in higher altitudes or recently took your dog for a haircut, they may be at more of a risk for sunburn.

cardigan welsh corgi outdoors
Image Credit: Svetlbel, Pixabay

Be Careful of Hot Surface Burns

If you frequently take your dog out with you during outdoor activities or regularly walk them, be careful during midday. Walking along the sidewalk or roads can also burn the bottom of your dog’s paws during summer. Always test the ground before taking your dog out. If you can’t hold your hand to the ground or the ground is too hot for your feet, it is certainly too hot for your dog’s paws. Try to avoid going on walks during the middle of the day, and do your best to stay in the shade or carry your canine friend across hotter pathways and roads.

woman carrying an adorable dog
Image Credit: Artem Beliaikin, Pexels

How Do You Protect Your Dog Against Sunburn?

You don’t need to coat your dog in thick layers of sunscreen until they look like Casper the Ghost to keep them safe. However, if your dog stays outside for long periods, even for lounging in the backyard, you need to protect their skin from the harmful effects of prolonged sun exposure. Here are a few ways to protect your furry friend:

  • Use sunscreen made specifically for dogs: Using the wrong type of sunscreen, or human sunscreen, for your dog is likely to cause as many problems as a sunburn itself. Use formulas only created explicitly for dogs. If not, you might expose your dog to zinc-oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid, which are toxic to dogs if ingested. Whatever sunscreen product you use is bound to be licked or ingested in some way, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Make sure your dog has access to shaded areas: If you are leaving your dog outside in the backyard, ensure your dog has a place to rest in the shade. Access to shade helps prevent sunburn and lessens the risk of other heat-related issues like overheating or heatstroke.
  • Dress your dog in protective clothing: You can use shoes or socks on your dog’s paws to protect them from the hot or icy ground, but you can also get reflective vests, hats, or even sunglasses to protect them from UV rays.
French Bulldog wearing blue cooling vest harness
Image Credit: Firn, Shutterstock

How To Apply Dog Sunscreen

How do you put sunscreen on your dog? Whether they’re a wiggly little menace or a calm sitter, the answer is the same: carefully.

  • Patch test the sunscreen by placing a small amount on one spot on your dog’s skin to make sure it doesn’t cause a reaction. If your dog’s skin stays the same and your dog does not show any signs of possible itchiness or irritation after at least 30 minutes, then it should be safe to continue and apply sunscreen.
  • Put sunscreen on the spots most exposed to the sun like the bridge of the nose, the ears, the skin around the lips, groin, stomach, and inner thighs. Anywhere where their coloring is lighter and you can see exposed skin should be your primary focus and target. Please take care when applying sunscreen; you wouldn’t want to get sunscreen in your dog’s eyes.
  • Ensure your dog doesn’t lick it off for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Sunscreen needs time to settle into the skin. For the same reason you can’t jump into the pool immediately after applying sunscreen, you need to ensure your dog doesn’t lick off the sunscreen. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to be absorbed into the skin, so waiting around 20 minutes before exposing your dog to the sun is a safe bet.
  • Reapply the sunscreen often: You need to reapply your dog’s sunscreen at least every 4 to 6 hours. If your dog goes swimming, you need to reapply after they swim.
pug dog massage by owner
Image Credit: Chanita Chinnawong, Shutterstock

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Beat the Heat

Enjoying time outside with your dog is incredibly fun and rewarding. Whether you’re lounging in your backyard or sightseeing on walks and hikes, ensuring your dog is protected from the sun is extremely important.

Even if you don’t think your dog is at a greater risk of getting sunburned, you should always assume it is a possibility and take the necessary precautions. Limit your dog’s activities in direct sunlight, invest in protective gear, and always take the time to apply sunscreen before going on adventures outdoors. If you suspect your dog may already have a sunburn, always contact your veterinarian for medical assistance and a specific action plan.

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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