With the summer months just around the corner and long sunny days beckoning, we all know that us humans need to guard our skin against the sun's damaging UV rays. But have you ever paused to consider whether the same is true of your furry four-legged friend?
In short, yes! Your pooch can indeed suffer from sunburn, just like you. Whilst it's easy to assume that a dog's fur coat would automatically give them adequate protection against sunburn, this unfortunately isn't always the case.
Doggy sunburn can be particularly uncomfortable for your poor pooch, but it can also exacerbate any existing conditions, such as dermatitis. So, if your dog's a sensitive type, you'll definitely want to keep their delicate skin safe!
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about doggy sunburn, as well as how to be a responsible pet parent and take precautionary measures to ensure your pup stays protected this summer.
Can Dogs Get Sunburn?
Yes, too much fun in the sun can cause sunburn in dogs. When the sun is out, harmful UV rays can penetrate and damage your pup's skin cells - in some cases causing sunburn in less than an hour.
As with humans, sunburn is most common during summertime and outdoor activities, but your pup's skin is susceptible at any time of year when UV exposure is high. In particular, you should pay attention when walking with your dog in higher-altitude locations (even if it doesn't necessarily feel like a hot day).
What breeds are most susceptible to sunburn?
Like pale-skinned, fair-haired humans, pups with a lighter complexion tend to burn more easily than their darker-haired counterparts. This isn't to say that dark-haired breeds won't burn, but pups with fairer, shorter or thinner fur are generally more prone to sunburn.
Some examples of breeds that are more at risk of sunburn include:
- Australian sheepdogs
- French bulldogs
- Hairless breeds, e.g., Chinese crested
Aside from breed and hair type, there are also certain medical conditions and coat problems that can increase susceptibility to sunburn. For example, allergies, hormone imbalances, or parasites like fleas and ticks, to name just a few. It's therefore important to deter critters and keep your pup's coat well groomed.
And remember, no matter your pup's skin or fur type, ALL pooches are capable of getting sunburnt! So, it's really important to take preventative measures, even if your dog isn't listed in the above list of breeds.
Where Do Dogs Get Sunburn & What Are the Symptoms?
Technically, pups can get sunburn on any part of their body. However, it's most commonly found in exposed areas with less fur, in particular:
- Nose and ear tips
- Around the eyes and mouth
- Tummy and groin area (especially if your pup likes to get really relaxed and lounge on their back in the sun!)
- Any parts of the body where fur is more sparse
Depending on the severity of the sunburn, you may notice one or more of the below symptoms:
- Red or pink skin
- Skin that is tender and sore to touch
- A cracked nose or ear flaps (always remember that these are particularly vulnerable areas)
- Skin ulcers, blisters or a rash
- In more severe cases, you may notice that your pup feels unwell or even develops a slight fever
With prolonged or consistent sun exposure, there may even be skin changes over time. If you notice any particularly scaly, thick or bumpy areas that don't return to normal within a week or so, it's worth taking your pooch to the vet for a check-up in case it's a sign of something more serious.
What Are the Risks of Doggy Sunburn?
If you've ever had sunburn yourself, then you'll know just how painful it can be! Your pup will find it difficult to get comfortable when their skin is tender and inflamed. Moreover, they can sometimes develop nasty secondary skin conditions like wounds or fungal infections. If you care about your pup's health and well-being, then this is the last thing you want!
However, as with humans, the biggest concern of prolonged and unprotected sun exposure is the long-term increased risk of developing skin cancer. Pups can develop squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma when exposed to the sun's harmful rays, which is why it's so important to take preventative action against sunburn.
3 Ways to Prevent Sunburn in Dogs
As with most things in life, prevention really is the best cure! Rather than trying to ease the effects of sunburned skin at the end of a hot day, we've got three top tips to keep your dog cool and safe this summer.
1. Avoid taking your pooch out at peak times of the day
Firstly, you should try to walk your pup earlier or later in the day if temperatures are expected to be particularly warm. If possible, get out before 10am or after 4pm, as the sun reaches its peak during these times and therefore your pup will be most at risk of sun damage. You may find that surfaces such as tarmac pavements are too hot for your pooch's sensitive paw pads between 10am-4pm, too.
If you are going to be out and about, make sure your pup is out of direct sunlight and always has access to shade and plenty of drinking water - this will help them to stay cool and hydrated. Heat stroke is a more immediate risk that can be fatal, so there are plenty of reasons to stay out of the sun in higher temperatures.
2. Protect your pup on sunny days with Be:Sunsafe
Before taking your pup outside, apply a dog sunscreen like our Be:Sunsafe SPF15 balm to exposed areas of skin – paying particular attention to noses and ear tips, as well as pink tummies. Make sure you reapply regularly too, especially if your dog is a keen swimmer.
Because human sunscreens may contain ingredients that are toxic to canines – zinc oxide, for example – Be:Sunsafe has been lovingly formulated with naturally nourishing ingredients that are 100% safe for your pet. These include Vitamin A, E & F, Beeswax, Grapeseed Oil, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Citronella, Chamomile, Lavender, Carrot Seed and Raspberry Seed Oil.
Each recyclable tin of our handmade balm has been made with sensitive skin in mind and is always tested on humans. Like every pampering product in our Be:Loved collection, it’s kind and gentle enough to be shared from palm to paw, so if you have a little left over, be sure to rub it into your own skin for some extra plant-based goodness.
With your precious pet protected, it’s time to head out and enjoy the sunshine safely - fingers and paws crossed we have lots of it this summer!
3. Consider a sun-safe bodysuit for summer activities
Last but not least, for dogs that are at a higher risk of sunburn (e.g., for those with fair skin), it may be worth considering some doggy-designed UV protective clothing. A shirt or bodysuit will help to protect your dog's skin during summer frolics.
Just remember that whilst this can be a great preventative solution, it won't protect some of your pup's most sun-sensitive areas, including their exposed nose and ear flaps. As such, you'll still want to apply your preferred dog-safe sunscreen liberally to these areas for all-over protection.
How to Treat Sunburn in Dogs
Hopefully, if you follow the above tips, you shouldn't ever find yourself in a situation where you're asking this question! However, if you do find yourself caught short and you want to ease your poor pup's immediate discomfort, then try the following to give them some much-needed pain relief:
- Pop a cool compress on the worst-affected areas, if your pooch will let you
- Place a damp, cool towel down for them to lie on or drape one over their body to soothe dog sunburn
- Rub a small amount of Be:Soft Nose & Paw Moisturising Balm between your fingers, and apply to the affected areas to help nourish, hydrate and restore their skin in any problem areas
When treating sunburn, if you notice that your dog is acting unwell or their skin appears particularly badly affected, then don't hesitate to reach out to your local vet. They may prescribe a stronger cream or pain relief for your furry friend to speed up the healing process.
Stay Safe & Enjoy the Great Outdoors This Summer
Now that you're armed with this knowledge, we hope that it empowers you to keep both yourself and your pup properly protected against the sun. We know how great it is to get out and about when the temperature starts to climb but take the necessary precautions to ensure you're not regretting it at the end of a long day.
And don't forget to have our Be:Sunsafe balm on hand in preparation for the upcoming summer months for perfectly protected noses and paws!