Brown Cocker Spaniel with sunglasses

Don't try home remedies for sunburn – your dog’s skin will be very sensitive.

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Can dogs get sunburn?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Despite their furry coats, you should worry about your dog getting sunburnt as much as you should yourself.

Although a dog’s fur will provide a certain amount of protection, our four-legged friends are still able to get sunburnt. They are most likely to become burnt on areas of their body that have less hair, such as their ears and noses. Some individuals will be at greater risk, for example if they are pale-coated or have areas of hair loss.

How can you keep a dog from getting sunburnt?

It is best to keep your pet out of the sun during the sunniest hours of the day. Dogs are prone to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, because they are only able to sweat through their paw pads and will pant to try to thermoregulate. Therefore, on hot sunny days they should be walked very early and then kept indoors or in the shade.

Ensure access to plenty of water to help prevent dehydration. For pooches who are particularly vulnerable to sunburn, you can use a dog suncream. Do not use a human product, as these commonly contain zinc oxide and other ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Some pet owners cover their dog with a thin, light pet T-shirt to help avoid sunburn. But take care that this does not cause your pet to overheat.

Don't let your dog's feet burn

Pet owners should also be aware that dogs can burn their feet from walking on pavements that are too hot. The ground can retain heat for a long time, even after the air temperature has started to cool down in the evening. Check the temperature of the ground with the back of your hand. You should be able to touch the surface for 10 seconds without it feeling painful or else it’s too hot. If in doubt, walk your pet in the early morning before the path has had a chance to warm up.

Which dogs get sunburnt?

Any dog is able to get sunburn, particularly on their more sensitive areas. But it is more common in paler-coated pets or those with thin hair. If your dog has had sunburn in the past, you can speak to a vet for more information about how to avoid and prevent sunburn in pets.

What signs are there that your dog is sunburnt?

Sunburn will usually occur on areas such as the nose, ears or belly first, as these are the most sensitive. You may notice that the skin appears reddened or sore, otherwise the skin can appear dry and flaky. Your pet may scratch at affected areas, or show signs of pain when touched.

What can I put on my dog’s sunburn?

If you think your dog may have sunburn, it is best to seek veterinary advice. This is because other causes of skin disease need to be investigated, and because dogs usually do not burn as easily as people. Therefore, it can be more severe and they can require veterinary medication.

Are there home remedies for dog sunburn?

Do not try home remedies for sunburn. The dog’s skin will be very sensitive and at greater risk of infection or further irritation.

Can dogs get sunburnt if they’re shaved?

Dogs are more likely to become sunburnt in areas where they have a thinner coat. But proper grooming is important to remove excess fur and help prevent them from overheating during the hot weather.

Where can I buy dog sunscreen?

Dog sunscreen is readily available from pet stores. It may be a good idea to phone ahead to find out what products they have in stock.

When should I talk to a vet?

If your dog is showing signs of sunburn, you should book an appointment with a vet. If your dog also has mild heat exhaustion (excessive panting and thirst), this should improve significantly within half an hour, otherwise this becomes a veterinary emergency. If your dog is showing signs of heat stroke, you should contact a vet immediately. These signs include dizziness, difficulty breathing, confusion, nausea, vomiting and more. Heat stroke can progress to seizures and collapse.

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