Can Dogs Sunburn?
The answer to this question is simple: Dogs can definitely sunburn! And just like with humans, a dog sunburn is painful and can lead to skin cancer, so it’s a good idea to be aware of the danger and how to protect your pup from those harmful rays.
Are Some Dogs More Prone to Sunburn?
Yes, dogs with certain skin and coat types are more likely to sunburn.
· Dogs with pink skin are more sensitive to the sun then darker skinned dogs.
· Those with little to no hair like the Chinese Crested are definitely sunburn candidates, regardless of the colour of their skin.
· Dogs with short or thin coats and pink skin, like a white Bull Terrier
Dalmatians, Boxers, Chinese Cresteds, Staffies, Greyhounds, Weimaraners, American Hairless Terriers, Xoloitzcuintlis, Bulldogs (especially in their face wrinkles), and Whippets are some of the breeds that are more prone to sunburn than others.
This does not mean that dogs with more coat or darker skin cannot burn, they just are less likely. All dogs have little to no hair on their nose, pads, tips of ears, and around the mouth, belly, and groin areas. These areas are susceptible to sunburn, regardless of skin colour.
Also, it’s important to note that fur does not block out UVB or UVA rays, so even on long haired dogs there is a chance for skin damage with prolonged sun exposure.
Another cause for concern for some dogs is damage to the eye from overexposure to UV Radiation from the sun’s rays. Photokeratitis, sometimes called snow blindness, is rare, but is something to watch for if you have a dog with light eyes, like green or blue.
And remember the sun reflecting off water, the pavement, sand, or even snow, can be just as damaging as the rays directly coming down.
Signs of Sunburn on a Dog
It’s probably obvious that dogs do not burn as easily as we do. Just an hour outside can leave fair-haired people bright pink and painful. However, sunburn in dogs looks a lot like sunburn on a person. Look for:
· Red skin.
· Skin that feels warm/radiates heat.
· Skin that is tender to touch (your dog may move away when you try to touch and/or may whimper when they groom themselves.).
· Depending on the severity of the burn, the skin may also crack, blister, and even bleed.
· Curling at the edges of the ears.
· Long exposure can cause bumps or boils to develop.
· Hair loss.
Over time, dogs can develop skin ulcers, infections and cancer from the effects of the sun. If your dog has been outside long enough to be burned, they may also be dehydrated and suffering from heatstroke
Sunburn or Allergies?
As you may have noticed, a lot of the sunburn symptoms are similar to those your dog may have from an allergen. If the reaction is mild, you may just want to keep them out of the sun and see if it goes away on its own. Think if you fed or exposed your dog to anything else that might have set off an allergy attack. If you are unsure, see your vet who can tell you if it’s allergies or sunburn, and prescribe treatment as needed.
Treatment of Sunburn
Because dogs do not burn as easily as humans, if your dog is burned, often there is more damage under the surface than you can see, so it’s recommended you go to a vet for treatment if you suspect sunburn. Your vet can tell you the best way to treat it – from just avoiding the sun, to cool compresses, ointments and vet-prescribed cortisone products, depending on the severity of the burn. Aloe Vera, coconut oil, vitamin E and even a soak in an oatmeal bath can help. With dogs, a secondary infection can occur and then antibiotics will be needed.
Knowing the signs to look for and being aware that your dog could sunburn is an important part of keeping your dog health and happy! Enjoy the sun, just remember to limit exposure and take time for water breaks!