The sunny weather where I live has been stunning recently. As a result my Labradoodle puppy Max has been getting lots of extra walks!
As a puppy we always limited his outdoor time. Typically to a duration of 30 minutes or less. Now that he is getting older Max is very comfortable staying outdoors for longer.
Given the bright sunny weather I wondered, can dogs get sunburn?
Is there anything I should be doing to prevent my dog from getting sunburnt?
And what should I do if my dog does get sunburnt!
I decided to turn to the experts and see what the Vets and dog experts thought should do to best look after Max’s skin.
Can A Dog Get Sunburn?
It turns out that dogs can get pretty bad skin damage if they’re exposed to the sun for too long. They can get sunburn, which is unpleasant for the dog. This can lead to skin conditions and even skin cancers. Sunburn for puppies and dogs can start as a mild irritant and up posing a serious risk to their health
The most common places that dogs can get sunburn
- is around the eyes
- on the paws on the belly
- and even on the back.
Lighter skinned dogs or dogs with a short hair are more susceptible and have a higher risk for sun damage. This is an important factor to consider when taking your puppy to the beach.
If your dog is light-skinned and has a pink nose or eyelids then you’d expect them to get more bad sunburn more quickly.
Dogs that are hairless or like to luxuriate or sun bake on their back will have a higher risk of damage from the sun.
Another interesting scenario to consider is that dogs who have had surgeries sometimes they have a shaved spot of fur. Even if they don’t normally get sunburnt here they can get sun damage to the area.
If a dog gets sunburn it can also make preexisting conditions that affect the skin worse. Examples include autoimmune disorders and dermatitis (American Kennel Club).
Dog Breeds That Are Most Susceptible To Sunburn
Breeds with fair skin or not much hair are more susceptible to sunburn. See our list of dog breeds most likely to get sunburn.
|Breed of Dog||Particular Cause for Sun Damage Concern|
|Golden Retrievers||White coats, pink–skinned, thin–haired breed|
|White Boxers||White coats, pink–skinned|
|Dalmations||Pink–skinned, thin–haired breed|
|Greyhounds||Pink–skinned, thin–haired breed|
|Whippets||Pink–skinned, thin–haired breed|
|Beagles||White coats, pink–skinned, thin–haired breed|
|Australian Sheep Dogs||Thin–haired breed|
|White German Shepard||White coat, pink–skinned|
|Dogo Argentinos||White coats, thin-haired|
|Chi Hua Hua||Thin-haired breed, pink-skinned|
Dense fur dogs like Poodle Mix breeds can still get sunburn, it. is just they are less likely due to the protection of pigment and thicker fur.
How To Prevent Dog Sunburn
Preventing your dog from getting sunburned is a two-fold process. It comes down to behaviour and products.
Behaviours To Limit Sunburn For Dogs
Just like humans, it is important to limit the exposure time of your dog to the sun. Can a dog get sunburn? Yes but only with exposure. During times of extreme UV it is advisable for dogs not to be outside.
This gets trickier throughout the day. I know if we are paddle boarding or fishing – there will be times that my dog is exposed to the sun during times that the UV index is high.
Taking breaks from full sun exposure is vital for dogs to limit the exposure of their vulnerable skin to the sun.
A shady tree, tent or awning provide a great place for your dog to seek shelter form the sun. Not all dogs will automatically avoid the sun – some love to loll around in the rays even if they are hot and bothered.
Take initiative and encourage your dog to chill out every now and then to avoid the sun. Providing shelter is vitally important if you are keeping your dog outside.
Products To Limit Sunburn For Dogs
The Cancer Council of Australia has a decades old advertising message about preventing human sunburn. Slip, Slop, Slap. Slip on a shirt, slap on sunscreen, and slap on a hat.
Given that Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches but also one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world – you can see why we place huge importance on human sunburn prevention.
Two of these three strategies will work perfectly to protect our puppies and dogs from the sun.
By creating barriers to harmful UV rays, we can limit the sunburn for our dogs.
The two principles we can steal from humans and use for dogs are Slipping on a protective shirt, and slop on some sunscreen.
Slip on a doggy rash vest or shirt
If you are taking your puppy to the beach, consider a rash best or protective shirt to block UV rays. There are plenty of durable (and stylish) dog rash vests and dog t-shirts available. They fit form snugly, and dogs don’t mind wearing them. They can be worn under a harness comfortably.
A popular and cost effective example is the Gold Paw Sun Shield Dog Tee – T-Shirt for Canines. It is cost effective, machine washable, and offers excellent UV protection. They are of course waterproof, which is a must have given than many dogs LOVE water (even Bernedoodles)!
Is There Such Thing As Dog Sunscreen?
Sunscreen remains the most effective prevention for dogs who are determined to spend lots of time in the sun. Whether it is visiting the beach, swimming, or taking your dog hiking or running – there is risk of sun exposure.
It is strongly recommended to use only dog sunscreen for dogs and puppies.
There are chemicals that are still found today in some brands of human sunscreen that can be toxic to dogs.
The most commonly cited chemicals of concern are
- Zinc Oxides
- PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
There are however also other chemicals that can be toxic to dogs.
If you are wondering “Why would they put poisonous chemicals in human sunscreen?” The answers are
- Some chemicals are toxic to dogs and not humans
- Humans (mostly) tend not to lick and eat sunscreen applied to them
- Sometimes it is cost effective to manufacture using such chemicals, and humans are extremely price sensitive
A great example of a popular doggy sunscreen is Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets. It comes as a spray which is a heck of a lot easier to apply to a dog than cream.
It is non-oily and actually FDA approved. it dries quickly, and is water-resistant.
How to Treat Dog Sunburn
If your dog does spend too much time in the sun you might be wondering what to do if a dog gets sunburn.
The steps of how to soothe dog sunburn differ from how to heal dog sunburn.
If you suspect your dog has sunburn, follow these steps immediately.
- Move your dog inside as soon as possible
- If this isn’t possible at least move to the shade
- Apply a cool compress to the skin to attempt to reduce the temperature
- Once the burn has occured this won’t “undo” it but can limit the immediate inflammatory response and soothe
Does your dog need to see a Vet? Be on the lookout for fever or blistering. If your dog appears unwell or distressed, it is time for a vet visit.
If there is blistering or skin damage then you should seek Veterinary advice. Blisters and skin damage may require medications and ointments that can be harmful if inappropriately applied.
Take no chances if you think the sunburn is moderate-severe.
Home Remedies To Soothe Dog Sunburn
Just like for humans, there are soothing and relieving options available to make the skin recover more quickly from sunburn.
Cool compresses and Aloe are about to be your best friend‘s new best friend.
Start with cool compresses before you pick up any topical ointments. Keep it simple! You can aid this regular application by considering topical ointments.
Whatever ointments you apply to your dog you need to assume your dog will lick and consume a bit of it. Aloe ointments that are natural and pure can provide relief to dogs safely. Many dog shampoos re built on an aloe base. Our top 6 tested and reviewed shampoos each have an aloe component.
Moving beyond Aloe, you can consider an oatmeal based soothing spray. Sprays are a great temporary measure for inflamed or itchy dog skin. Oatmeal forms the base of many of the best dog shampoos.
Moisture can help make the damage more comfortable and can sometimes make healing faster. A dog specific moisturiser made of natural ingredients ca be a great solution for dog sunburn.
If the dog sunburn gives a dry or irritated nose or snout – you can use a Snout Soother Travel Stick or similar.
What to put on dog sunburn
- Oatmeal Soothing Gel
- Dog Skin Moisturiser
What Does Dog Sunburn Look Like
The more extreme forms of dog sunburn will be recognisable. Think red inflamed skin, blistering, and heat radiating from the area.
It gets alot trickier to determine mild forms of dog sunburn. The fur tends to hide the irritation.
Two common signs to look for are unexplained dry skin, or skin irritation causing your dog to lick an area more than usual.
Light skinned areas like the borders of the ears or snout are the most likely to show redness indicating dog sunburn.
Frequently Asked Can A Dog Get Sunburn Questions
Does Sunburn Make A Dogs Hair Fall Out?
Sunburn can indeed lead to hair loss for some dogs. Given that sunburn is more common breeds with thin or little hair anyway, this can be a very serious issue.
The hair will likely grow back, but can take time. Consider using a moisturiser and aloe to return the skin to health as soon as possible.
Can Black Dogs Get Sunburn?
Yes, black dogs can get sunburn. They are less likely to get sunburn if their coat is thick or if the pigment or if their skin pigment is darker. Despite these strengths, if there is excessive UV exposure even a black dog can get sunburn. Look to the nose, tips of the ears, and belly of the dog to see if there is sunburn.
Do White Dogs Get Sunburn Worse?
Yes, lighter coats are more likely to get sunburn. The thickness of the coat and hair type is also important to determine the risk of a dog getting sunburn. White dogs also often have pink skin and lighter pigment which increases their risk of sunburn.
Can dogs get sunburn on their testicles?
Yes, dogs can get sunburn on any exposed skin. The undercarriage of your dog is particularly susceptible to sunburn. Be mindful of dogs that like to sunbake one their backs exposing their underbelly. Limit exposure to the sun and consider a dog suncreen.
Can you use human sunscreen for dogs?
NO! As a general rule do not risk using human sunscreen for dogs. Zinc Oxide and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) are common chemicals present in human sunscreens that are toxic to dogs. If the brand is listed as dog-safe or is okayed by your Vet then you are safe to use. Otherwise do not take the risk.
Can a dog get sunburn? Yes. But there are steps we can take prevent, soothe, and treat dog sunburn.
The sun can be intense. UV rays can cause really significant damage to your dogs skin. Treat the risk of dog sunburn the same as you would for your own skin. Take simple measures to prevent dog sunburn. Be cautious because some dogs just love the sun and need to be managed.
The prevention is better than the cure!