Sunburn in dogsCorey Farrugia
Taking your dog with you for a day at the beach? Live in a hot, sunny country? Like us humans, some dogs love nothing more than lazing about, soaking in the warm sun. However, the sun can be a double edged knife. While getting some sun can be healthy, everything must be done in moderation. Most of us are not strangers to sunburn. Remember that time you went on your Mediterranean summer holiday and came back home looking like a poached lobster? Remember how annoying it was when you could not touch any part of your body to a surface without feeling like torture? Most dog lovers will take any opportunity to get their pets to tag along with them when going out to enjoy a nice, warm, sunny day. However, our pets can get sunburnt too! Good owners always take the necessary precautions to protect their companions from harm.
But how can our dogs get sunburnt if they are covered in fur?
This is a very common and legitimate question, but one should take in consideration many factors. Take into consideration that dogs are not covered by a uniform, thick, layer of hair. Some dogs have very fine hair on certain parts of their body like their tummies and head. This allows the sun’s harmful UV rays to get to the skin and do the necessary damage and cause sunburn. Also, dog’s noses, lips, eyes and sometimes ears are very vulnerable to sunburn. Depending on their coat colour, dogs are at different risk of getting sunburnt; white dogs have a greater chance of getting sunburnt than dark coated dogs. However, this does not mean that dark coated dogs can tolerate long hours in the sun. Dark colours are better at absorbing infra-red rays emitted by the sun, thus leading to hyperthermia. This, coupled with the fact that dogs are not very good at dealing with excessive heat, can often lead to heat stroke; a common problem in dogs living in hot countries.
So what can I do to protect my dog from sunburn?
If you are taking your dog out on a sunny day there are various things to take into consideration. If your dog has very little hair and very sensitive skin it is best to take your dog out in the early mornings, and in the evenings to avoid the sun’s harmful rays as much as possible. However, if the dog lives in the garden, make sure that the dog has a good kennel and also plenty of shade for it to lie out of the sun when needed. If you’re going to the beach or going out for a picnic, it is best to take a parasol with you in order to protect both yourself and your dog from the sun. If the dog is taken out at around mid-day one should protect the dog’s paws from the hot asphalt and sand. Snow can also deceptively harmful; snow is good at reflecting the sun’s harmful rays, leading to sunburn when you least expect it.
Sunscreen, is another way how to protect your dog from the sun’s UV rays. It is best to use dog specific, sunscreen products. However, if you cannot find such dog specific products in your area, it is also safe to use a delicate sunscreen made for human babies or people with very sensitive skin. When looking for a sunscreen, it is important to find one not containing zinc as this common ingredient in sunscreen can be toxic to dogs if ingested. Apply more sunscreen over the more vulnerable areas of the skin or where the dog’s hair seems to be finer.
What can I do if my dog got sunburnt?
If a dog gets sunburnt it is best to give your dog copious amounts of water in order to keep its skin as hydrated as possible. Before taking matters into your own hands, it is best to take your dog to your trusted veterinarian. This way the veterinarian can prescribe you medicine and suggest treatment suited to your dog’s sunburn without putting your dog’s health at risk.