Dog can get sunburn. That is a fact. If you are staying in Florida which has sun rays that sting the skin, especially during the summer, or in other countries that have equally challenging climate, you should learn to take care of your dog’s skin and prevent them from getting sunburned, especially when you head out and travel.
Sunburn in dogs usually occur around these areas:
Take special care of these areas to prevent sunburn. These areas are good indicators of sunburn on your dog. I will share with you how to observe them for signs of sunburn and, more importantly, how to prevent them. But first, let us understand how dogs, or even humans get sunburned.
How To Get Sunburned
Dogs and humans skin are very much alike. They can get damaged by the sun’s rays and cause the painful sensation and various other symptoms like reddening, tanning and flaking of the skin that we collectively associate with the term sunburn. What exactly causes the pain and all these symptoms?
The ultraviolet light in the sun’s rays, the ultraviolet b rays in particular, can cause direct DNA damage on skin cells. The body reacts in defense against these harmful rays by having special skin cells known as melanocytes secrete melanin to neighbouring skin cells, mainly the keratinocytes which form the bulk of the skin.
Melanin is a dark colored pigment that can defend the DNA in the cells against the carnage of the UV rays. Hence, when more of it is produced when the skin is exposed to the sun and UV rays, tanning occurs. Their defense alone, however, is far from foolproof. Over a protracted period time of exposure to the sun, skin cells will still continue to get damaged.
When enough of them get damaged, the body will react with an inflammatory response in an attempt to heal those cells. This inflammatory response triggers the production of various chemical compounds and a rush of blood flow to the area of damage to cause the reddening of the skin.
The flaking of the skin is due to damaged keratinocytes cells not maturing properly and, instead of falling off inconspicuously as part of an everyday natural process, they coagulate together.
Contrary to popular belief that one is more susceptible to sunburn during the hot summer days, sunburn can occur even during the cold winter. After all, it is caused by the UV spectrum of the sun’s rays, not the infrared end which is responsible for the heat.
The video below gives a narrative explanation of sunburn in general.
Dog Breeds Susceptible To Sunburn
Having introduced the science of sunburn for much of the previous section, it might be hard to imagine that this can happen in dogs. Most of us have probably never came across a dog that is sunburned.
Well that is easily overlooked due to the fur on our furry friends. If you own a hairless dog breed like I did with Xola, you will know what I mean.
The fur on dogs is a natural defence against the UV rays from the sun. Hence dog breeds with less hair are going to be more susceptible to sunburn, especially the hairless breeds like:
Xoloitzcuintli – Mexican Hairless Dog
Chinese Crested Dog
Argentine Pila Dog
American Hairless Terrier
Although these dogs be classified as desert dog breeds and are among the best dog breeds that can thrive in hot climates due to their their hairless feature, it is ironically the same feature that is also a weakness in such climates.
Sign Of Sunburn On Your Dogs
This does not mean dogs with a large amount of fur are out of your worry. They might have a more wholesome layer of armor as compared to the hairless breeds, but that does not mean they are completely protected against light.
Just like a knight’s armor, even the most furry of dogs have certain areas of their body that are not well covered by their fur. These areas thus become the key places to look for signs of sunburn. Some of these areas include:
- Tips of the ears
- Tip of the nose
- Underside of the body
- Tip of the tail
In these areas, look for:
- Dry, cracked edges on the ears
- Fur loss
- Reddening of skin
How To Prevent My Dog From Getting Sunburned
There are many ways to protect your dogs from getting sunburned, ranging from helpful pet supplies to treatments that can even be done at home.
Start off by making sure you dog gets ample shade during sunny days. While it is healthy to get some nourishment from sunlight, overexposure to sunlight is not ideal. Make sure your house have at least a shady spot that your dog can seek refuge from the sun rays. You can add curtains or install blinds to your windows to reduce the sun rays before you leave your dog alone at home when you go to work.
If you are traveling in a car, get a Pulaisen Car Window Shade to block out the sun rays from your dog in the backseat. These window shades are made of high quality static fibre that can stick onto your window and the lightweight meshes come in 2 layers to effectively block out 99% of the UV rays.
Yes, a dog sunscreen is a thing. They protect the dogs’ skin from harmful UV rays, just like our human version. However, do not use you sunscreen on your dog. It poses a health risk due to the chemicals used as its ingredient. In particular, sunscreens for humans contain zinc oxide which is harmless to humans. Sunscreens with zinc oxide can block a larger spectrum of the UV rays and effectively but safely attenuates UV radiation.
Ironically, zinc oxide is harmful to the body, humans and dogs alike. So while there is no harm done applying sunscreen topically with zinc oxide on dogs, there is a danger if it is ingested by them. And knowing dogs, the probability of this occurring cannot be any higher.
Hence, sunscreen specially for dogs is required. I personally recommend the Gerrard Larriett Sunscreen for your dogs.
On top of having a soothing fragrance and smooth touch to the skin, it is also made up of essential oils that have multiple bonus health benefits for them. Apply it especially to areas with less fur, like behind the ears, and this sunscreen can double up as a flea repellent due to its essential oil ingredient. For killing 2 birds with 1 stone, this will become a worthwhile purchase.
Reduce the exposure time of your dogs to the sun. If you are taking your pet on a hike and run the risk of exposure to long hours of sunlight, make sure to take frequent rests at shady spots you may come across along the way.
Remember, these rests are also good for you to protect yourself from the sun’s rays as well.
How To Treat Sunburn
In the unfortunate event that your dog suffer sunburn, here are some solutions to help them recover fast and ease the pain.
Often, the cure is to do the exact opposite of the cause. For sunburns, get a cold compress and apply it to the area of concern. The cooling sensation counters the heat from the inflammatory and numbs the nerve fibers, thereby relieving the sensation of pain from the sunburn. It will bring great relief to your dogs and they will thank you greatly for that.
I recommend the TrekProof Ice Pack Therapy Gel as it comes with a strap that can fit around your dog’s body smartly for the duration of the treatment. It is also microwave safe so you can heat it up to a suitable temperature before placing it in contact with the dog’s skin to avoid that cold jarring sting.
Aloe vera has shown positive results against inflammatory skin conditions, like sunburn. It can ease the pain from sunburn and help recovery as well. If you are getting an aloe vera gel for your dog’s sunburn treatment, considering getting the Amazon’s Choice, the Amara Beauty Aloe Vera Gel. It is a great moisturizer and does not leave any sticky residue to give a smooth and silky skin. It is made of premium quality ingredients and, more importantly, it is pet safe.
Like all topical medication, this cream may cause problems if ingested. To prevent your dogs from harm by licking the areas where you have applied the cream on, consider using an Elizabethan collar, like the E-KOMG Pet Recovery Collar.
This collar is very comfortable to wear and easily foldable and portable too. It is scratch and bite resistant, making it the perfect candidate for this job. Since it is bendable, your dog is able to lie and rest its head properly in a natural position. Compared to the plastic ones that force your dog to make compromises and lie in awkward and uncomfortable, this is a much better choice for your dog who is already suffering from the sunburns. You do not want to pile on the hardship would you?
These Elizabethan collars are primarily used during the recovery phase after surgeries to prevent the dogs from licking at their surgery wounds and accidentally reopening them. In this case, it forms an effective barrier to prevent them from licking and accidentally ingesting the topical medication.
Visit The Veterinarian
In the event of extreme sunburn, visit your veterinarian for professional advice.