Dogs can get sunburned if they stay in the sun for a long time. The dog's nose, rims of the ears, and the tummy can get badly burned if there is no protection from the sun. This page gives information on symptoms of sunburn, dog sunscreen, and other simple natural remedies to treat dog sunburn.
Dogs (and cats) love the sun and, on sunny days, they just enjoy snoozing in the sun. Some people think that with their thick fur coats, dogs do not get sunburn easily. That is not true. Dogs do get sunburn and it is just as painful for them as for us.
The most vulnerable parts to get sunburn for dogs are the nose, ears, around the eyes, and the tummy. The first sign of dog sunburn is redness and tenderness on these parts. Sometimes, the edges of the dog's ears will become dry, cracked, or curling. In more serious cases, dog sunburn can lead to hair loss.
Prolonged exposure to the sun and serious sunburn can cause or aggravate existing skin problems, such as skin ulcers, infections, and even skin cancer.
Although all dog breeds can get sunburned, some breeds are more prone to sunburn than others due to their physical characteristics. Sunburn-prone dog breeds include:
- Dogs with short hair or no hair at all
- Dogs with white or light-colored hair
- Dogs with short legs (their tummies are closer to the ground and easier to get sunburn from sunlight reflected from the ground surface)
Natural Remedies for Dog Sunburn
Some veterinarians recommend using OTC spray-on anesthetics to ease the pain caused by sunburn. While these medications may kill the pain, they do not heal the burn. It is better to use natural remedies that not only soothe the pain but also heal the burn. Here are some simple natural remedies for dog sunburn:
- Aloe Vera: The gel of aloe vera is perhaps one of the best remedies for sunburn. If you have an aloe plant, just break off a leaf and squeeze out the gel. Spread the gel on your dog's sunburned sore spots. Alternatively, you can get an aloe cream and use as instructed on the label.
For added healing power, if you have 100% pure Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia), you can add up to 5 drops of Lavender to 30 ml (1 oz) of aloe vera gel and use the mixture to treat dog sunburn. Lavender is gentle and good for the skin, and is effective in soothing burns (including sunburn) and skin irritation.
- Witch Hazel: Witch hazel is a natural astringent with antiseptic properties. It can cool down burned, inflamed skin without the sting of alcohol. Simply use a cotton ball and apply witch hazel to affected areas several times a day.
- Vitamin E: One way to heal your dog's burned nose is to break open a vitamin E capsule, squeeze out the oil, and dab it onto his nose once or twice a day. Vitamin E is an antioxidant with healing properties. It can help heal your dog's nose and keep it from scarring.
- Herbal Moisturizer: If your dog gets sunburn, his skin will lose a significant amount of moisture, making it dry and sore. Help to restore his skin's natural moisture balance by applying a natural moisturizer such as Dr. Harvey's Healing Cream. This cream contains shea butter to moisturize the skin, as well as healing herbs and oils such as aloe vera, goldenseal, calendula, and tea tree. It is a cream that can heal wounds from burns, rashes, cuts, hot spots and itching.
Preventing Dog Sunburn
As always, prevention is better than cure. There are simple ways to prevent your dog from getting sunburn.
- Limit Your Dog's Exposure to the Sun: Do not go out for walks in the middle of a hot summer day - get out early in the morning or evening and try to find paths with trees for shade. If you keep your dog outside, keep him in a fenced, shaded part of the yard. If possible, let him inside the house during the hottest parts of the day. Even if your dog is inside the house, he may still get sunburn if he enjoys sleeping by the sunny windows. You may need to keep the blinds or drapes closed during the brightest parts of the day.
- Use Sunscreen: The daily use of sunscreen is an effective way to protect your dog's skin from damage by the sun. However, when choosing a sunscreen for your dog, read the label carefully. Some sunscreens (even those made especially for dogs) contain substances that can be toxic to your dog. Find out more about which sunscreens are harmful to dogs here.
- Clothing with UV Protection: Dogs with very thin fur can burn easily. You can help to keep them safe by putting them in some dog sun suits with UV protection.
Beware of Heatstroke!
Dogs staying in the sun (especially in summertime) for a long time can easily get heatstroke. Visit this page
to learn more about the symptoms and first aid treatment of this potentially life-threatening problem.