Summer is here, and even in Ireland and Great Britain the sun is often shining. We know we have to slather ourselves with sunblock before we spend much time outside, but what about our dogs? Can dogs get sunburn? Do they need suncream? Does sunblock for dogs even exist? What’s a responsible pet parent to do?
For starters, yes, dogs can and do get sunburn. It is painful and increases their risk of skin cancer. Excessive exposure to the sun poses similar problems for dogs and humans.
Which Dogs Are at Risk of Sunburn?
Not all dogs are at an equal risk of getting sunburn. Breeds with a short, thin coat such as Greyhounds, Whippets, Boxers and the bull breeds such as Staffordshire Terriers can easily get sunburned on bright days. Lighter-coloured dogs are at more risk than darker ones, particularly those with white pigment around their nose or ears. Their belly typically has little if any fur, so it also vulnerable to the sun.
Should I put Sunblock on My Dog?
Suncream can protect your dog from sunburn, but the wrong one can do more harm than good. Many brands of sunblock use zinc oxide, which causes a very dangerous type of anaemia in dogs. Other common ingredients such as salicylates and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) are also dangerous for dogs. Remember, dogs will try to lick off anything you put on them.
Sunblock for dogs does exist. Not all brands are equal, but you can find suncream designed for dogs. Look for a brand that is specifically for dogs that is also fragrance-free and waterproof. But sunblock is not your only – or even your best – option.
Best Ways to Protect Dogs from Sun
The best way to protect your dog from sunburn is to keep them out of the sun. Try to walk your dog in the morning and evening rather than mid-day. Ensure that your dog has shade available in the garden or anywhere else they spend time outside.
Your dog can also wear clothes to protect their skin from the sun. Light-coloured, light-weight fabric is best. Some companies do produce dog clothes for sun protection. But remember, their nose is the most vulnerable spot and few dogs will tolerate wearing a hat.
What to Do If Your Dog Gets a Sunburn
Sunburn hurts! It can show up as red or flaky skin. So how you can help if despite your efforts your beloved pet gets a sunburn?
- For a very mild case, apply a cool compress and keep your dog out of the sun for a few days. Your dog won’t know to avoid the sun, so it is up to you to keep them indoors or confined in a shady spot and to walk them in the morning or evening only.
- For a minor burn, do all of the above but also use a dog-friendly aloe vera cream on the burned area.
- For anything more, contact your vet. Serious sunburn is indeed a burn injury. It might require antibiotics or other treatment to prevent long-term damage.
Prevention is always better than cure. Excessive sun exposure also increases your dog’s risk of skin cancer. If it is uncomfortably warm, try to keep your dog out of the sun. Take shorter walks, and try to schedule them for morning or evening. Avoid the peek sun hours, usually between 11 am and 4 pm.