Dogs Get Sunburn, Too – Best Sunscreen and Sun Care Tips for Dogs and Puppies



Dogs can get sunburn too!If you’ve ever gotten a bad sunburn, you know how painful and uncomfortable it can be. Did you know dogs can get sunburn too? If you have a puppy or a full-grown dog, it is your responsibility as owner to make sure you protect your pet from sunburn. But, take note that sunscreen for dogs is not the same as sunscreen for people.

Some easy sun care tips can help you keep even the most active dog healthier when exposed to the sun. To keep your dog safe from too much exposure to the sun and protect from doggie sunburn or potential dog skin cancer, follow a few precautionary tips from the experts.

“Dogs can suffer multiple ill effects of sun exposure, including sunburn, skin inflammation, and several kinds of skin cancer,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “Skin cancers caused by sun exposure in dogs include squamous cell carcinoma and hemangiosarcoma.”

Q. – Which Kinds of Dogs Are Most at Risk for Sunburn, Heat Stroke, and Skin Cancer?

A. – Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital: “Dogs with thin hair coats, light-colored noses, and white fur are most at risk from sun exposure. Dogs with areas of white fur or areas where the coat is thinner are also at risk. All dogs are at risk in areas of the body with less fur, such as the groin and belly. Pets who have areas of missing hair, such as those who have had an area shaved for surgery, should be protected from sunlight.”

A. – Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at The Animal Medical Center in New York: “Sunburn is much less common in dogs than in humans since most dogs are not worried about a tan, have thick hair coats and dark skin. But we do see sunburn in the less haired areas of light colored dogs like the nose, ears and on the underside of dogs between the belly button and the back legs. White pit bulls, Dalmatians, Boxers and Whippets are especially sensitive to the effects of sun, but any light coated dog is at risk. Usually dog abdomens are not exposed to the sun, but rare dogs do like to sunbathe on their backs and will sunburn. Just like in humans, sun exposure can lead first to solar dermatitis and ultimately to skin cancer of the nose, ears and abdomen.”

Dogs that sunbathe can be at greater risk of sunburn and doggie skin cancer.A. – Dr. Alison Flynn, DVM, DACVD, Veterinary Dermatologist at Miami Veterinary Specialists:
“Pets at risk for sunburn and UV induced cancer:
1. The sparsely haired area on the top of the muzzle towards the tip of the nose and the belly are at increased risk of sun damage.
2. Pets with white / lightly colored hair coat and skin
3. Specific breeds have been reported to have an increased incidence of solar induced skin cancer such as those with short hair coats and white or piebald coat / skin color (Dalmatian, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and Beagle).
4. White cats have squamous cell carcinoma about 13 times more frequently than other cats, owing to increased susceptibility to sun damage.
5. Pets with significant hair loss affecting a sun exposed area of the body
6. Pets that are naturally hairless, such as the Chinese Crested dog
7. Pets that spend the majority of their time outdoors
8. Pets that frequently enjoy sunbathing (even if they are indoors, basking in the sunlight through a glass window or door)
9. Pets that are receiving tetracycline antibiotics should stay out of direct sunlight completely, this medication sensitizes the skin to UV and may promote severe burns

“Pets at risk for heat stroke:
1. Those with a dense hair coat such as the golden retriever, Siberian huskey, chow chow, etc
2. Any pet in direct sunlight for longer than 30 minutes when the temperature is greater than 90F

“Pets that are at risk for worsening auto-immune disease are those that have been diagnosed with:
1. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE)
2. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
3. Pemphigus erythematosus (PE)”

Q. – What Are the Risks of Sun Exposure to Dogs?

A. – Dr. Alison Flynn, DVM, DACVD, Veterinary Dermatologist at Miami Veterinary Specialists:

1. Sun burn
2. Skin infections (may arise secondary to severe sunburns)
3. Skin cancer – squamous cell carcinoma in particular
4. Heat stroke
5. UV induced/ exacerbated autoimmune disease (rare)


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