How To Protect Your Dog From Getting A Sunburn

Yes, dogs can get sunburned — but you can still enjoy the summer☀️🐶

A day at the beach is always more fun with a canine companion in tow, but while we all enjoy playing in the waves and digging in the sand together, the hot summer sun can do some serious damage to your dog’s delicate skin.

Despite the fact that many pups wear a fur coat 24/7, dogs can actually get sunburned, and excessive sun exposure may lead to skin problems — even cancer — down the road, according to Dr. Christy Michael, veterinarian at the DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

“Dogs can absolutely get sunburned, just like people,” Dr. Michael tells The Dodo. “Dogs with light-colored coats and dogs with a thin or short coat are more susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer.” Owners of light-skinned or fair-haired dogs such as pit bulls, Dalmatians, boxers, Weimaraners, greyhounds and those of the furless variety, such as the Chinese crested, should be especially careful when it comes to monitoring their pet’s sun exposure.

However, no dog is entirely safe when spending an exorbitant amount of time outside on a sunny day. “All dogs can get sunburned in certain areas of their body that have little to no fur, which is why it’s a good idea to use sunscreen if you plan to take your dog into direct sunlight,” Michael says.

Before heading out on an adventure, give your pet some extra UV protection by applying a bit of sunscreen to his most susceptible areas. “Apply pet-safe sunscreen on unprotected areas, like the tips of the ears, the skin around the lips and the tip of the nose,” Michael says. If your dog really likes to soak up those rays, don’t forget to slather the lotion on his groin and belly, too.

When it comes to our dogs, not all sunscreens are created equal. “Some sunblock can be dangerous for pets, so be sure to read the label carefully,” Michael says. “A good rule of thumb — if it’s safe for babies and does not contain zinc, it’s safe for pets.” Zinc is poisonous to dogs if ingested, and can lead to an immune system disease known as hemolytic anemia. Pet owners should also be wary of another common ingredient in sunscreen and cosmetics, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), which is used to deflect and absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays and can be harmful if swallowed.

Pet parents can find sunscreen especially formulated for dogs, cats and horses at their local pet supply store or online, and in a pinch, a fragrance-free baby sunscreen, free of zinc and PABA, can be applied.

The best protection from sunburn is, of course, staying out of the sun altogether. “To avoid sunburn, avoid direct sunlight exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for long periods and provide a shaded area for outdoor pets,” Dr. Chris Reeder, veterinary dermatologist with BluePearl Veterinary Partners, tells The Dodo. “If one suspects a sunburn on their pet, a veterinary consultation or veterinary dermatologist involvement is advised.”