Humans are not the only ones that need to be cautious of how much sun they are exposed to. Your dogs are at risk too, particularly the ones with thin or white coats. Likewise, if your canine has a pre-existing condition or if their summer haircut leaves them closely shaven, they may be at a higher risk of getting sunburned.
Christa Horvath-Ungerböck, a veterinary dermatologist at VetMedUni in Vienna, warns her patients on a daily basis about the risk of sun exposure to animals. She provided some of her tips for preventing and treating sunburned dogs and other animals in general.
How to protect your dog from sunburn
The most common places for dogs to get sunburned are the ears, the skin around the eyes, the bridge of the nose and on their back. That’s because these are the areas that are most often exposed to the sun.
One important thing to remember is to have a shady place in your yard where your dog can rest without any danger. This is especially key during the middle of the day when the sun is the hottest. If you have an open yard and there is only shade around the edges, consider buying a tent, dog house, or other form of shelter to protect your pooch from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Christa Horvath-Ungerböck encourages pet owners to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more on pets that have more sensitive skin or that are at higher risk of getting a sunburn. She also warns pet owners to be aware that some dogs love to lie on their back and expose their bellies to the sun, so sunscreen should be applied there as well. Horvath-Ungerböck also suggests that during long exposures to sun, dogs just like their owners, should wear shirts and hats for added protection.
The pet skin expert explains that treating animals with a sunburn is a lot like treating people. If you notice your pets skin becoming red, flaking or blistering while in the sun, they should be moved to a shady area as soon as possible. Ointments such as Aloe Vera and cold compresses can be used to soothe the burned area, and if the burn is really severe, you should definitely contact your veterinarian.
Horvath-Ungerböck also says that certain pre-existing conditions can make your pet more susceptible to sun damage. Certain illnesses or genetic defects can result in thinner coats or more sensitive skin in dogs. In some cases, sun exposure can even make these conditions worse. Canines with conditions such as these should be monitored closely and carefully protected from the UV rays of the sun.
Just like their owners, animals with skin damage can have long lasting effects.
Sunburn can cause the skin to be itchy and irritated and may cause your pet to dig and scratch the skin until it breaks, which might even cause an infection. Dogs that have had frequent sunburns can end up showing signs of pre-cancerous conditions or even develop skin tumors.
“We sometimes see squamous cell carcinoma on the heads of white, outdoor cats as the result of chronic sun exposure. The affected areas of the skin then need to be surgically removed,” says Christa Horvath-Ungerböck.
It is crucial that pet owners take skin care issues seriously and make sure their pets are not exposed to the sun for long periods of time. Minor burns can be treated, but the long term effects of sun damage on dogs can greatly affect your canine’s health. Be sure to monitor your pet’s time outdoors when the sun is the strongest and make sure to check them regularly for any signs of sun damage.