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Can Dogs Get Sunburn?
by Valerie Trumps
If you’re planning beach trips and outdoor barbecues with your dog this summer, make sure to protect him from the harsh UV rays of the sun. Just like humans, canines are susceptible to painful burns and potential skin cancer. Keep your dog safe with these tips.
Which Dog Breeds Can Get Sunburned?
Some pooches are more susceptible to getting burned by the sun, while others have natural protection. White dogs, for instance, tend to have fair skin underneath all that fur-similar to people with blonde hair-and a greater potential for sun damage. Pups with naturally thin hair, and especially the hairless breeds including the Chinese Crested and the Xoloitzcuintli, are also at risk for sunburn and skin cancer. All canines, regardless of the thickness of their coats, have vulnerable areas of the body with less fur or none at all. The belly is often covered with blonde hair, making it a target; the ears have delicate skin; and even a dog’s nose can become dried out and baked. Before taking your dog into the sun for any extended period, look him over to identify danger spots for sunburn.
Find Some Shade
Naturally, the best way to keep Fido from getting sunburned is through prevention tactics. Some well-intentioned dog parents shave their pooches in an effort to keep them cool in the summer, but doing so exposes “virgin” skin to the sun. A better cooling tactic is to always provide shade-a big umbrella at the beach, a shady tree at a park, a roof for your backyard patio, or a sun-block top for an outdoor kennel. Your dog will instinctively seek shelter from the sun when the rays become too intense.
Block the Rays
Sunblock for your dog? Yes, but only certain kinds to keep the inevitable licking from harming him. Only one product, Epi-Pet Sun Protector, has been approved by the FDA. However, it is not an all-natural ointment. A homemade concoction with essential oils and other natural ingredients could also provide some protection. Regardless of which variety you choose, apply sunblock to the tips of the ears, nose, belly, and groin areas, and try to hold your pooch still long enough to allow the sunscreen to soak in. If you can manage to find a sun hat that will cover his ears and nose, and wrap his belly with a stylish swatch of fabric, that works too.
Signs of Dog Sunburn
Just like people who get too much sun, dogs also get red skin that is tender to the touch. The most susceptible areas-the nose, ears and tummy-are likely to show overexposure before fur-covered areas. Look for dry, cracked skin and curling at the edges of his ears. Other signs of doggy sunburn are constant scratching in tender places accompanied by a whimper, and shrinking away when you try to pet him. If his sunburn is severe, your pooch may even get a slight fever.
First Aid for a Sunburned Pooch
Pet parents who have gotten sunburned themselves can apply the same first aid to their sunburned pup. An oatmeal bath, using lukewarm water and rolled oats ground into a powder (a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor works fine), soothes dry, irritated and sunburned skin. A few drops of neem oil added to his bathwater can help heal his burns or you can apply an aloe vera gel for cooling relief. The oil from a vitamin E capsule will speed healing and reduce scarring, but wait until a couple of days after sun exposure to avoid trapping the heat. Coconut oil also works well for replacing lost moisture in parched skin, but wait a few days before applying it.
Fun in the sun will be more enjoyable knowing your pet is protected from the harsh rays. Image: Bruno Bense / via Flickr
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