Can dogs get sunburned?

April 13, 2012

You are lying in your yard… soaking up the summer sunshine. Very soon you will have a gorgeous tan that will be the envy of your friends. As always the ever loyal and devoted pooch will be lying beside you. Naturally, you make sure that you are protected from the UV rays by your SPF 30 or SPF 40 lotions. What protection does the dog have? The dog would not need any sunblock lotion (you think). Dogs don’t get sunburned as the skin is protected by the fur! This is one of the misconceptions of dog owners. Dogs, just like humans can get sunburned too.

Hairless breeds like the Peruvian Inca Orchid, Hairless Khala, and the American Hairless terrier will surely be sunburned if allowed to be under direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Without the protection of fur, these dog breeds will get sunburned very easily. Even during the not too hot part of the day, owners of these breeds make sure that their pets are protected by sunscreens.

Would you need sunscreen for the dog if you pet has a long and dense coat? Dogs don’t get sunburned easily like humans do but some body parts of canines can be affected by the harsh sun. The ears, the nasal bridge, a light colored nose, the skin around the lips are the body parts commonly sunburned. Some dog breeds have the propensity to sleep lying on their backs with the hairless abdomen exposed. These dogs would be sunburned if allowed to lie for sometime under the scorching heat of the sun. Dogs with short and sparse hair will be sunburned as well given that the skin is exposed. Dogs with light colored hair are prone to getting sunburned as more sunlight can reach the skin. Dachshund, Welsh corgi and Basset hounds are only some of the low to the ground breeds. These dogs are susceptible to sunburn because they are closer to the pavement. The sun reflecting on the sand or on the ground would cause sunburn on the exposed belly, groin and inner legs of the dogs.

Sunburns especially on the sensitive parts of the dog’s body will be extremely painful. Redness and hair loss will be noticed on the sunburned area. The skin may appear like leather. Treatment would depend on the severity of the sunburn. Sunburns can be treated at home. The hair around the sunburned area may have to be shaved for the easy monitoring of the healing. The skin is then gently cleaned with chlorhexidine or povidone iodine and applied with silver sulfadiazine or other topical creams for burns. Serious cases of sunburns would need veterinary care. The dog may have to be hospitalized if there is a need for intravenous fluids to be administered.

Although sunburn is not life threatening it must be prevented. A sunburned pet will suffer discomfort and pain. Additionally, pets that are constantly exposed to the scorching sun have a greater risk of developing skin cancer. A concerned pet owner will make sure that the dog is kept inside the home during the hottest part of the day. But if it is really necessary for the dog to be outdoors, sunscreen applied on the exposed skin will make sure that the dog is protected from the harsh rays of the sun. A pet owner would dress the dog not only to be fashionable and to gain attention. The dress will also protect the dog from being sunburned. One of the purposes of the hair is to insulate the dog from cold and from the heat of the sun. Dogs kept for the show ring are normally groomed leaving little protection for the skin. Ask the groomer to be easy on the clippers. The dog’s well being is surely more important than the recognition it can gain.

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