When warm weather arrives, our four legged friends can get hot and thirsty quickly particularly when playing in the backyard in direct sunlight. One aspect of summer you may not have considered is sun protection for dogs. Like people, our canine buddies can suffer from the not so healthy effects of the sun including painful sunburns and even the development of sun related skin cancers. If you’ve never considered the idea of protecting your dog against the direct rays of the sun, you may want to reconsider since a severe dog sunburn can lead to skin ulcerations in dogs as well as autoimmune skin conditions that can be extremely uncomfortable for your pet.
Certain breeds are particularly susceptible to developing dog sunburn and skin damage. These include light colored dogs with short hair such as the Boxer, the Chinese crested dog, Dalmation, the Weineramer, Greyhound and Pitbull. These breeds of dog need definite sun protection if they’ll be spending any significant amount of time outdoors in direct sunlight. If you have a longer haired dog that’s usually given a short summer haircut, he’ll also need protection from the hot rays of the sun. It’s particularly important to protect dog breeds susceptible to sunburn since they also have a higher rate of skin cancer.
The most common areas for dog sunburn to occur is around the edges of the nose, as well as the groin and abdominal area. When a dog walks on a hot sidewalk, his underside is subject to reflected light that bounces off the sidewalk which can result in a sunburn to the underbelly region.
Once you know your dog needs sunburn protection, what can you do to protect him? Ideally, you should keep your dog indoors during the peak hours of direct sunlight, from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. If this isn’t possible, fit your dog with a white t-shirt that covers as much his body as possible. For small dogs, one in a child’s size should work well whereas larger dogs may need an adult t-shirt for proper fit. You can also buy full sun protection bodysuits for dogs online. If you have a hairless breed of dog, this may be the safest option. Once you’ve covered your dog’s body with clothing, apply sunscreen to exposed areas, particularly around the nose and eye region.
When choosing sun protection for dogs, choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least fifteen and is nontoxic. Avoid ones that have PABA or zinc oxide which can be toxic to dogs. To be safe, it’s best to use a sunscreen specifically designed for dogs. Your veterinarian may be able to make a recommendation. An alternative to a sunscreen made for dogs is to use sunscreen designed for children. Children’s sunscreens are less likely to have added scent and other ingredients that can irritate a dog’s sensitive skin.
When you apply sunscreen to prevent dog sunburn, apply it to any areas where the skin is exposed such as the nose, along the tips of the ears and the underbelly if your dog isn’t wearing protective clothing. Avoid cutting your dog’s hair too short in the summer since hair helps to protect against sun damage.
With a bit of planning and the use of sun protection for dogs, you can not only prevent dog sunburn but also protect your pet against sun induced skin cancer while still allowing him to enjoy the benefits of fun in the sun.