How to Prevent Sunburns in Dogs

Keep your pup health & happy this summer!
Photo credit: Unsplash

Summer is a time for creating happy memories, like lazy days by the pool…but it can also remind you of that wicked sunburn you got that one time (you know the one).

Unfortunately, dogs can suffer from sunburns too. And nobody wants their pup to deal with a painful burn, so we’ve compiled a guide to help you learn about dog sunburns and how to prevent them, so you can have happy summer memories together.

Symptoms of Dog Sunburn

Dogs’ bellies, ears, and noses are the most common areas to sunburn, because they have little to no fur on them. Their paw pads can also get burned from hot surfaces, such as asphalt on roads or sand.
Here are some common symptoms your dog may show if they have a sunburn.
  • Red or cracked skin (including paws)
  • Dry, cracked nose
  • Whimpering or wincing when touched

Breeds Susceptible to Sunburn

All breeds are susceptible to sunburn, but some dogs need more protection than others. This is true for dogs with fair or white fur, and dogs with thin or hairless coats (extra care needed if your dog has both!).

Below is a sample list of breeds that can be especially susceptible to sunburns:
  • French bulldogs
  • Chihuahuas
  • Beagles
  • Pit bulls
  • Boston Terriers

Dogs with thin coats can be prone to sunburns.
Photo credit: Unsplash

Dog Sunscreen – Is it Safe to Use?

We know what a sunburn looks like (and we definitely know how it feels), but is there such as thing as dog sunscreen? And is it safe to use?

When it comes to sunblock for dogs, the major ingredient to avoid is zinc oxide. It may be a popular ingredient for human sunscreens, but it’s toxic for dogs. Even small levels can cause vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, seizures, and heart problems. And if you like to give your dog lots of kisses, double check the ingredients on your sunscreen label!

As of this writing, the only FDA-approved sunscreen for dogs is Epi-Pet, which has an SPF equivalent of 30+ and can be applied every couple of hours to your dog’s entire body or rubbed onto certain areas such as the ears and feet.

If you’re applying sunscreen on your dog for the first time, start small and see how your dog reacts. As always, it’s best to speak with a vet beforehand about any concerns or questions you may have.

Sun Protection Clothing for Dogs

You can provide additional protection for your dog with SPF clothing, especially for dogs with thin coats. Look for SPF 50+ clothing that’s lightweight, breathable, and chemical free. You can also look for bootie socks to keep your dog’s paws protected from hot surfaces.

Should I Shave My Dog for Summer?

If your dog has thick, heavy fur, it makes sense in theory to shave them for summer. However, our dog’s hair is different from ours. Their fur plays an important role regulating their body temperature, keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If your dog’s fur is completely shaved off, it compromises this temp-regulating ability and can cause life-threatening sunburns.

For dogs with very thick coats, speak with your groomer (even your vet) about a summer haircut for your dog. Your dog may need just a trim to help them feel better without jeopardizing their health.

Shaving your dog's hair completely off can harm their health.
Photo credit: iStock

Other Ways to Prevent Dog Sunburn

Sunscreen and protective clothing can go a long way toward keeping your dog safe from sunburns, but there are other protective measures you can take when outside with your pup.
  • Walk in the early morning or late evening
  • Look for shady spots to walk your dog
  • Avoid hot surfaces
  • Track the UX index rating hour-by-hour: generally the sun’s rays pose lower risk in the mornings or evenings, so it can be helpful to know the hourly index rating when picking a time to go on a walk.

Want to know ways to keep your dog cool on summer walks? Check out our article here.

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Sunburn

If your dog gets sunburned, visit your vet to see whether they should be treated with any topical medications. In the meantime, follow other protective measures to keep them safe.

As summer temps rise, taking some protective measures will ensure you and your pup will have a safe, happy, and healthy summer. Does your dog wear sunscreen? Do you have additional tips to share? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
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