Can My Dog Get a Sunburn?

June 25, 2013 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

The answer is yes! While not as prone to sunburn as humans, dogs and cats can suffer from sunburn as well. This time of year, vets treat an increased number of pets with sunburn and other skin diseases that likely have come from a large amount of sun exposure.

Dog breeds with short or no hair at all and with white or light colored hair are the most vulnerable canines. Sunburn most often occurs on the nose, ears, around the eyes, and the tummy area of dogs. The most common sign that your dog has sunburn is redness and tenderness around the affected area. Sometimes, in more serious cases, the sunburn can even lead to hair loss and exposed skin on the burn site. As is the case with humans, repeated sun exposure and burns can cause skin damage and possibly skin cancer for your pets.

Understandably, pets are more at risk for sunburn during the hot summer months. To prevent your pet from getting sunburn follow these simple steps.

1. Limit the amount of time your dog is exposed to the sun- Try to keep your dog inside during the hottest parts of the day and instead let them out in the early morning or late afternoon when it is cooler. Try to have areas of shade for them when outside.

2. Apply sunscreen that is specifically labeled for your type of pet (cat or dog). The ASPCA Poison Control Center reports that some sunscreen products not labeled for pets can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and lethargy.

If you suspect that your dog has been sunburned, there are some natural remedies that can help.

1. Aloe Vera- This is one of the best natural remedies for sunburn on dogs. Squeeze the gel from the aloe plant or use aloe cream as instructed on the label on the affected area.

2. Witch hazel- Apply with a cotton ball on the sunburn spots several times a day. Witch hazel can cool down the burn area without stinging it.

3. Herbal moisturizer- This restores the natural moisture balance of your dog’s skin and helps to heal the sunburn. But be careful choosing moisturizers for pets. Since pets rarely pay attention to the instructions “For external use only” “Do not ingest,” some ingredients in some moisturizers can be toxic – especially to cats.

If the sunburn is so severe that natural remedies do not sufficiently alleviate the problem, veterinary care is recommended.

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