How To Protect Your Dogs Against Sunburn

How To Protect Your Dogs From Sunburn


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Image Credit: Claudia Bensimoun

Your dogs spend so much time outdoors; it only makes sense to question how much sun is harmful. Not surprisingly, pet parents need to monitor their dog’s exposure to the harmful effects of UV rays. Dr. Christa Horvath-Ungerboeck, a veterinary dermatologist from the University of Veterinary Medicine , Vienna suggests that dogs who have white or thin coats need to have special preventative sun care, since these dogs are particularly at risk. Extreme care also needs to be given to dogs that have recently been clipped, and to dogs with pre-existing medical conditions.

New research by Dr. Horvath-Ungerboeck demonstrates which dogs and animals are most sensitive to sun exposure, and the harmful effects of sunburn. Dr. Christa- Ungerboeck also demonstrates how one should treat sunburn in dogs and other animals.

“Some animals particularly enjoy lying on their backs to bask in the sun. This exposes the skin on their bellies, which is often hairless, to the rays of the sun, increasing the risk of sunburn,” explains Dr. Christa Horvath-Ungerböeck via Science Daily. In this new study, Dr.Ungerboeck discusses why dogs and all animals with very little or no hair or no pigmentation may also be vulnerable to sunburn. While most of us will apply canine sunscreen on our dog’s nose, Dr. Ungerboeck discourages pet parents from ignoring other areas such as the skin around a dog’s eyes, his ears, his back and the bridge of his nose. These parts are very sensitive to the sun and need extra protection.


Vulnerable Dog Breeds


While breeds like Dalmatians, Whippets, white Bulldogs, Beagles and the Dogo Argentino are breeds that are particularly at risk for sunburn, Dr.Ungerboeck suggests looking out for any dogs that have white pigmentation or clipped coats. These dogs will also have a tendency to suffer from sunburn. With short hair the UV rays can penetrate all the way through to the sensitive skin, and result in sunburn. Dogs that have no hair will have no natural sun protection like fur. Dogs and animals that have darker skin pigmentation are less prone to sunburn. Dr. Ungerboeck suggests that pet parents of dogs that are vulnerable to sunburn should be careful to protect their dogs from harmful UV rays.

 What Type of Sun Protection Should Dogs Use?


“As a rule, animals should have a shady place to lie in. Especially at midday, when the sun is at its strongest and presents the greatest risk, not just for the skin but for the animal overall”, adds Dr.Ungerböeck via Science Daily. She also adds that dogs and animals with very sensitive skin should use a sunscreen that is waterproof with an SPF of at least 30, or a sunblock that contains zinc oxide. When out hiking Dr. Ungerboeck suggests that dogs and all other animals that are sensitive to sunburn should wear a canine t-shirt, coat or hat for protection. Nonetheless, the veterinary dermatologist also adds “Not every white dog or white cat needs sunscreen or clothing to protect it from the sun. If sun damage has already occurred though, or if an animal is highly sensitive, it is up to us to protect it from further damage.” via Science Daily.

How To Treat Canine Sunburn

 If your dog’s skin has reddened, and is warm to the touch or if he has flaky skin, Dr.Ungerboeck suggests that you should move your dog or animal to the shade immediately. Apply cool compresses and ointments that will help to soothe your dog’s skin, relieve the pain and all initial sunburn symptoms. Yet, if your dog’s sunburn is severe, Dr. Ungerboeck suggests contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible, since cortisone treatment may be needed to prevent any inflammation of your dog’s skin. If your dog develops a secondary infection, he may need antibiotics. Dr. Ungerboeck also recommends keeping the affected dog or animal well protected from the sun in the future, so as to prevent permanent skin damage.

Which Pre-Existing Conditions Can Increase Skin Sensitivity

 Dr. Ungerboeck adds that there are some illnesses and genetic defects that will contribute to a thin coat, and make your dog more sensitive to sunburn. Illnesses such as parasitic infections, congenital hairlessness and chronic skin conditions will all affect a dog’s coat, and possibly result in a thinner coat or hair loss. Dogs that are exposed to the sun and have these conditions must be protected. Dr. Ungerboeck suggests observing, covering and protecting any areas that have had a sudden hair loss like scar tissue from a recent surgery or injury.

What Damage is Caused By Sun Exposure

 In dogs and animals, sunburn causes acute inflammation of the skin. This will result in pain or itching, or even both. Dr. Ungerboeck adds that too many sunburns can result in pre-cancerous conditions in your dog, and even actual skin tumors. “We sometimes see squamous cell carcinoma on the heads of white, outdoor cats as the result of chronic sun exposure. The affected areas of the skin then need to be surgically removed,” explains Dr.Ungerboeck via Science Daily.



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