How to Prevent Your Dog from Getting a Sunburn

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Are you a sun worshipper? Do you love a long hot summer and the chance to work up a tan while walking the dog?


Hopefully, you tan responsibility and use liberal applications of sun lotion. If you don't, well there's premature ageing of the skin to look forward to, plus an increased risk of skin cancer. But what about your walking partner, the dog?

It may surprise you, but dogs can get sun burnt and sustain sun damage, just like people. Indeed, canine skin is relatively thin and unsophisticated compared to human skin, and arguably at greater risk of burning. What dogs do have going in their favor is their coat, which for a shaggy cockapoo or a long-haired Leonberger acts like SPF 100.

Spare a thought then for those white coated, thin furred dogs who are at greatest risk. Even breeds such as the Chow chow or Samoyed, if they are shaved down to the skin, can suffer sunburn. Especially vulnerable are dogs that lack pigment on the ears, nose, or around the eyes. These are classic places for repeated sun exposure to turn cancerous.

Sunscreen

For pets at risk of sunburn, the answer is to apply pet-safe sunscreen

  • Avoid people products:  Most human sunscreens contain zinc oxide. A big difference between people and pets is we don't tend to lick at sunscreen. When ingested in large quantities, zinc is toxic to dogs, so human products should be avoided. The exception is if a sun product is specifically labelled as 'Zinc free', in which case you can consider it.

  • Pet sunscreen: Specially formulated, pet sunscreens contain ingredients that are safe if licked and ingested. Always follow the instructions on the packaging about how to apply and how often. If you have a hairless dog or one with a very short coat, then look for a liquid you can spritz over the body, in addition to a cream formula for the face and ears.

  • Re-Apply: Don't forget to reapply the product after the dog takes a plunge in a pool or plays in the sea.

  • Waterproof: If your dog is a real waterbaby then choose a waterproof pet sunscreen.

Cover Up

When sunscreen isn't practical (or even in addition) providing a physical barrier between the sun and your dog is a simple answer to preventing sunburn.

  • UV wear: Yes, you can get UV wear for dogs! If your best buddy is a beach dude, then let them romp around in their own pawsonal UV shield. Lightweight to wear and colorful to look at, you're not going to lose a dog wearing one of these on a crowded beach.

  • Sun Goggles: Don't forget to protect the dog's eyes, which are as vulnerable to UV damage as our own. And yes, you can get dog UV goggles.

  • Don't shave: If your dog has a thick double coat, don't be tempted to shave it to cool them off. That fur provides insulation to stop heat getting in as well as out. Removing the fur strips away a valuable barrier that prevents sun reaching the skin.

Behavioral

Choose where and when you walk to reduce sun exposure for the dog.

  • Provide shade: Make sure the dog has access to the shade at all times. This is especially important for yard dogs or while relaxing on a beach

  • Avoid the midday sun: Choose the times when you walk the dog. It is sensible to avoid exercise at the hottest times of the day, and go out at dawn and dusk. Not only does this reduce sun exposure, but decreases the likelihood of sun stroke.

  • Bring the dog indoors: Be ultra careful about leaving your dog outdoors. In summer, its best to let the dog reside indoors.

 

Also, spare a thought for your dog's belly! If they love to sunbathe on their back, belly exposed, then those delicate undercarriage areas are at risk. It's a great idea to run an impromptu risk assessment of your dog, to identify trouble spots. If your dog is a flirt who likes to exposure her tum, then consider a UV vest for her in the summer months. Likewise, the Dalmatian who spends all day on the beach needs a liberal spritz of waterproof sunscreen.

And finally, don't forget to pay attention to other ways the sun can distress your dog. Think about hot pavement and know that it's too hot for your hand, then it's too hot for the dog's paws. And never venture out in the heat of the summer without taking plenty of water for both you and the dog. Happy holidays, everyone! May all your walks be sunny ones.