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Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? A Guide to Protecting Your Pet From Sunburn

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As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, many of us look forward to spending our summer days soaking up the sun with our dogs. 

We know that it’s important to protect our own skin from the sun, but what about our dogs? Can dogs get sunburnt? Do dogs need sunscreen? Read on to learn how to protect your dog from catching too many harmful ultraviolet rays.

Can Dogs Get Sunburns? 

The short answer: yes, dogs can get sunburnt. Not only are dogs prone to sunburn, but they can also experience more serious complications down the road as a result of severe and/or frequent sunburns. 

Your pup may be especially prone to sunburn if: 

  • He’s a hairless breed

  • He has lightly pigmented ears, eyelids, and nose

  • He has a white, light, or thin coat

  • He’s lost hair due to seasonal shedding or an underlying health issue

  • He spends a lot of time in the sun

Your dog’s paws can also get burnt while walking on hot asphalt or cement, so be sure to take added precautions to protect your pup’s paws from hot pavement.

Protecting Your Dog From the Sun

No dog wants to spend his days cooped up inside. Fortunately, there are several ways you can let your pup enjoy romping around outside on those sunny days while also taking precautions to protect his skin from the sun. 

One effective form of sun protection: sunscreen for dogs! It’s important that you use a sunscreen specifically formulated for dogs, as your own bottle may contain ingredients that are toxic for Fido. 

When you put sunscreen on your dog, be sure to: 

  • Test a small spot to check for any allergic reactions

  • Apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before going out in the sun

  • Put sunscreen on spots that are frequently exposed to the sun or have little to no fur (nose, tips of ears, the skin around lips, belly, and inner thighs, for example)

  • Avoid getting sunscreen in your dog’s eyes

  • Keep your dog from licking it off before it’s absorbed (about 10-15 minutes)

  • Reapply sunscreen every 4-6 hours or after a swim 

For added protection (and style), you can also opt for some protective dog clothing such as sun shirts and hats! 

As added precautions, make sure your dog has access to plenty of shade and water when he’s outside, and plan your walks for times when the sun isn’t at its peak—mornings and evenings, for example. 

It’s also important that you never shave your dog, even if you think it will keep him cool in the summer. In addition to acting as built-in climate control, that coat is crucial for protecting his skin from the sun.

Signs of Sunburn in Dogs

As with humans, dog sunburns typically appear within an hour and peak within three days. 

Signs of sunburn in dogs include: 

  • Red, warm skin
  • Dry, cracked, flaky skin
  • Blistering
  • Curling at the edge of the ears 
  • Behavioral signs of discomfort such as scratching or pawing at the area, whining, and avoiding physical touch

Not only can sunburns be uncomfortable, but they can also result in long-term skin and health issues. They can also exacerbate existing skin conditions.

Promote healthy skin and inflammatory responses with PetHonesty’s Omega SkinHealth chews. These tasty, vet-recommended chews are made of a blend of natural ingredients including healthy omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins to contribute to healthy skin, a shiny coat, and soothing allergy-related skin issues. 

How to Address Your Dog’s Sunburn

For the most part, you can address your dog’s sunburn the way you would handle your own. Just make sure you’re not using any products or ingredients that are toxic to dogs. 

When you first notice signs of sunburn, remove your dog from the sun as soon as possible. (Make sure he’s hydrated, too.) Cool compresses can provide short-term relief; you may also want to invest in some dog-friendly ointments. 

Other options include oatmeal baths with lukewarm water, coconut oil, or aloe vera–just be sure to only use the gel, as the rest of the plant can be toxic if ingested. 

Of course, we always recommend contacting your vet just to be safe. While mild cases of sunburn typically clear up within a week, vet intervention may be necessary in more serious cases. (Plus, it never hurts to rule out potentially serious health issues.)