Dogs are not good at knowing when they have spent too long in the sun. Many dog owners may not be aware that dogs can get sunburned just like people, and they are also at risk for heat stroke, which can be a life-threatening condition that can develop very rapidly in many breeds.
Dog sun protection can be a relatively easy process. Understanding what to do preventatively and how to spot the signs your dog needs to get into the shade can help you have fun but also be safe.
The sun produces two different types of ultraviolet light that are damaging to the skin. The one most people think of is UVA rays. These don’t cause burns, but they can cause skin cancer in dogs as well as humans.
UVB rays are the ultraviolet rays responsible for sunburns. As dogs don’t have the same uncovered skin surface as we do, they are less prone to burning, but with significant exposure, sunburn can cause lesions and skin damage from scratching and secondary infections.
There are some human sunscreens that can be used on dogs. However, there is one deadly item that is found in most sunscreens for human use. Zinc oxide, which is also used in diaper creams, is highly toxic to dogs. Not only should you avoid using this type of sunscreen on your pet but also avoid using it on yourself while around your pet if he or she is likely to lick your skin while you have it on. Carefully choose a human sunscreen without zinc oxide of find one recommended for dogs through your vet or pet store.
Where Dogs Burn
Dogs that will require sunscreen are those with very spare, thin coats or dogs with skin exposed. Dogs that may have bare patches on the coat, a natural part down the back or hairless breeds of dogs are at greatest risk. Other types of dogs prone to sunburn include Dalmatians, white short haired breeds like the Bulldog, Whippets, Italian Greyhounds and the Dogo Argentino are the most likely breeds to burn.
The skin around the nose is also a place for sunburn, as is the belly area. If you are by water, remember that light can reflect off the water to cause these types of burns. The ears can also easily become burnt, so be sure to apply a dog-safe sunscreen to these areas.
It may be necessary to apply again if the dog goes in swimming or is in and out of the water. Watch for any signs of tenderness or redness on the skin and immediately get the dog to the shade and out of the sun if these issues are noted.
For those dogs prone to burning, a lightweight summer dog shirt is a great option. Some are now made of cooling fabric which helps with temperature regulation as well as with skin protection.
It is also a good idea to ensure that the dog doesn’t lay out in the sun when the people are in the shade. By regulating the amount of time the dog is out of the direct sun, you can help to avoid overexposure and sunburn.