Can Dogs Get Sunburn? + Dog Sunburn Treatment Options

can dogs get sunburn

Like many humans do, dogs love to sunbathe. I’ve not met a dog yet who doesn’t want to laze in the sun once the weather hots up. But this does come risk, because just like us too, the sun’s UV rays can harm a dog. Skin cancer is very real in canines.

And the first step to skin cancer… exposure to the sun and getting sunburn. But just how much of a problem is this for dogs, and can they really get sunburned? Here’s all you need to know about dogs and sunburn, including treatment you do administer.

Can dogs get sunburn? Dogs do get sunburn particular on exposed parts of their body without fur such as their nose, ears, belly and that delicate patch around their groin area. Dogs should not be allowed to sit in the sun for prolonged periods of time.

Some dogs get sunburn more than others. Dogs with thin hair and white dogs are more prone to sunburn. Our four-legged friends are just as vulnerable as their human friends to getting skin cancer.

Dogs and the dangers of sunburn

Humans know the perils of too much sunlight and tend to slather up the sunscreen. But, because your dog is covered in fur, you may think they’re safe from harmful UV rays.

There is an element of truth to this, but fur won’t completely stop the sun. And then of course, most dogs have parts of their body not protected by fur – tips of the ears, the nose, belly, and balls on the male of the species.

dog sunburn treatment
This dog loves the sun, but it could be harmful (Image licensed via Storyblocks.com).

It’s an important topic and one us doggie owners mustn’t take lightly. Please do read on about dogs that get sunburn so you can learn how to protect them from harmful sun-related conditions.

I’ll also talk about how to tell if your dog has got a spot of too much sun and what to do about it.

But first, tThe best way to protect them from the sun is by preventing them in the first place – many pet shops, vets and other outlets sell specialised doggy sunscreen (view on Amazon), which will help to prevent them from getting burnt.

What dog breeds or colors are more prone to sunburn?

Certain dog breeds are more prone to sunburn than others. These are often the ones with thin fur and hairless breeds.

If you own a white dog or any of the following breeds, then you need to take sun prevention methods seriously:

  • Greyhound
  • Boxer
  • White German Shepherd
  • Fox Terrier
  • Weimaraner
  • Dalmatian
  • Collies
  • Whippet
  • Bulldogs
  • Bull Terriers
  • Pit Bulls

If your dog is not listed above but has the following, then you need to keep him protected against harmful UV rays:

  • White or thin coat (white dogs are more at risk of sunburn than black dogs).
  • Light or white pigmentation on or near their noses and eyelids.
  • Has a bald patch on their body because of a recent operation or been shaved during grooming.

Your dog is most vulnerable to sunburn on his nose, ears, belly and even on his balls! Poor guy.

Can black dogs get sunburned?

And, don’t be fooled if your dog is a black haired pooch. Whether your dog has black hair or brown hair, they still have ears, noses, bellies and other sensitive areas so can get sunburn.

And they’re all likely to get nasty sunburn if left to lie in the sun all day.

Can dogs get sunburn on their belly or tummy?

The most obvious way your dog can get a sunburned belly is from lying out in the sun all day. Show me a dog that doesn’t love to lie on his back, exposing all to the world while reveling in the warm sunshine?

But did you know they could also get sunburn from walking on areas that reflect up UV rays? These include sidewalks, white sand and other light surfaces.

Your dog’s tummy area is extremely delicate. UV rays are reflected upwards and could eventually burn this part of your dog’s body if they spend too much time walking on these surfaces.

Can dogs get sunburn on their paws?

Your dog has footpads on their paws. And, most time they do a good job of protecting your dog’s feet when out and about. But, when your dog walks on extremely hot surfaces, they risk getting sub burned paws.

Asphalt roads, concrete sidewalks and even the beach sand can get very hot from the sun. If you take your dog walking in the middle of a hot summer’s day, they’re not only going to get sunburned bellies but also burned paws.

Signs your dog’s paws are burned include:

  • Your dog is limping or stops walking.
  • His paws are a darker color.
  • He’s chewing or licking his paws.
  • You can see visible damage on the paws such as blisters or redness.

When your dog is showing any of these signs, take them to the vet for a checkup.

How do you tell if your dog is sunburned?

While I’ve mentioned the signs of sunburned paws, the other signs to look out for include:

  • Curling of the ear tips.
  • Redness on the nose and around the lip and eye areas.
  • Redness on the belly area.
  • Your dog is whimpering or licking inflamed areas.
  • Cracked, scaly and/or dry skin.
  • Your dog moving away or whimpering when you touch them.

If you suspect your dog has sunburn and presents with any of the signs above, make sure you get them to the vet.

A proper diagnosis will rule out any other underlying causes and your dog will receive the proper treatment.

Dog sunburn treatment

It’s not nice to see your dog suffering from sunburn. If you’ve ever experienced it yourself, you know how painful it can be.

But there are some dog sunburn treatments you can try yourself before taking a dog to the vet.

For example, you can apply a cold compress to the affected area. You could also make a paste with water and baking soda and apply to the sunburned patches. Make sure your dog can’t lick at it all the time.

Another great home remedy is applying Aloe vera or neem oil to your dog’s bath and gently washing them down. All of these remedies will help to ease the pain until your vet can prescribe a treatment.

How can I prevent my dog from getting sunburn?

How often have your parents told you, “prevention is better than cure”? Well, I’m going to tell you right now, do whatever you can to prevent your dog from getting sunburned. Here are some prevention tips to help stop your dog getting sunburn:

1. Keep them in the shade

If your dog spends a lot of time outside, make sure they have enough shade from trees and even a patio roof. Provide them when a good dog kennel. And, if you’re on holiday, make sure they get enough shade cover whether you’re on the beach or out hiking in the wild.

2. Keep them indoors

It’s always a good idea to keep your dog indoors during the hottest time of the day. To prevent sunburn, keeping them indoors between 10 am and 4 pm is best. By the way, the same applies to humans!

3. Use sunscreen

Yes, I know you’ve been waiting for this one! Many dog owners ask if it’s safe to use sunscreen on their dogs. You can as long as use dog sunscreen made from all-natural products. Human sunscreen is loaded with artificial ingredients and fragrances which may irritate your dog’s skin. And make them sick if they lick it.

4. Cover them up

You can get specially designed pet clothing and shoes from specialist vet outlets. These items are made with UV and SPF protective materials and will help to keep your sun safe from harmful UV rays. You can even buy them dog goggles to keep their eyes protected from harsh sunlight.

The risks of canine sunburn

Too much sun can lead to serious sunburn for your dog. But, you also run the risk of dehydration and heat stroke. Make sure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water.

Severe sunburn in dogs can eventually lead to them suffering from various skin cancers such as the following:

  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Hemangiomas
  • Malignant melanomas
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

While genetics can play a role in increasing your dog’s chance of getting skin cancer, sun is the most common cause for squamous cell carcinoma. Signs of this cancer are normally seen on the stomach, head, rear and lower legs. They appear as firm, raised patches.

Stats show 1 in 4 dogs are likely to get cancer with over 50% getting some form of cancer once they’re over 10 years old.

This can be devastating for your dog. But if caught early enough, treatable. So, do everything you can do prevent your dog from getting skin cancer. And, this includes slathering on the sunscreen!

Conclusion

Don’t take risks with your dog in the sun. Just like you wouldn’t let them come to harm in cold weather, pleased take the approach in hot summers too.

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Image in header licensed from Storyblocks.com.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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