Can dogs get sunburns?

Jun 17, 2019 | Pet Health

I was standing out in the yard with the dogs the other day and Jake being Jake, he was giving me a hard time about coming in.  He insisted that he be allowed to lay in the yard and watch the neighbors level off their yard.  We have a new home built next to us and now the new landscape is going in.  What I like is that Jake and Maggie are not fazed at all by the large equipment and dump trucks and just enjoy watching the guys work.  The sun was blaring down on him and it got me thinking…with his light eyes and nose, can he get sunburned?  So after doing some research, I found that the answer is YES!  Dogs can get sunburned!  

Just like humans, dogs can get the same ailments and that includes a sunburn.  You can also use sunscreen on your dog as a safety precaution but it has to be appropriate for dogs.  Sunburn isn’t just painful for dogs; it can lead to more serious problems, for example, certain types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanomas, and hemangiomas. Sunburn also exacerbates certain conditions, for example autoimmune disorders and dermatitis, and can cause discomfort at surgery sites.

Obviously, dogs with white or thin coats and dogs with light-pigmented noses and eyelids are also more at risk for sunburn and any dog with light or white pigment on their ears or near their nose.  Even some dogs with thick coats of hair may experience hair loss from seasonal shedding or a health condition that may cause their coats to become very thin and may then be at greater risk for sunburn.

Your dog’s sunscreen should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), as these ingredients are toxic to dogs if ingested, and dogs will often lick their skin and accidentally ingest the sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to use a non-scented sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that is also waterproof.

How to apply sunscreen on your dog:

  • Test a small spot to make sure your pet will not have an allergic reaction to the sunscreen.
  • Put the sunscreen on the spots that will be exposed to the sun the most.
  • Wait 10-15 minutes to make sure it is absorbed and make sure your dog does not lick off the sunscreen.
  • Apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before your pet goes out into the sun.
  • Re-apply very 4-6 hours or if your pet goes swimming.
  • Use umbrellas that your pet can lay under.
  • Make sure your pet has access to lots of drinking water to avoid heat stroke especially in puppies and older dogs.

Treating Sunburn on your dog:

  • If sunburn is visible as reddened, warm, or flaking skin, you should move your dog inside or at least into the shade as quickly as possible.
  • Cool compresses and ointments may soothe the skin to help relieve the initial symptoms.
  • Aloe may help a minor burn.
  • If the burn is severe, you should call your veterinarian because treatment with a cortisone product may be needed to prevent inflammation.
  • There may also be a secondary infection requiring antibiotics. If these complications do occur, the dog will need to be well protected from the sun in the future to prevent permanent damage.

Where to find sunscreen products for your dog:

Check out for balms, oils, sprays, and lotions as well as dog clothes and grooming products.  

So, needless to say, because I spoil Jake and Maggie rotten, I let Jake lay there in the sun for a bit.  It gave me time to assess the yard for more landscaping ideas, let him warm up in the sun and watch the neighbors work.  When he started to pant, I knew he was getting hot and I brought him in.  We are talking about taking the pups for a weekend getaway sometime soon and I’ll be sure to check out some products on the Amazon website before we go.


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