Although people easily understand that they need to protect themselves against sunburn, they don’t always know that their pets can be equally susceptible to the sun’s harsh rays. But dogs can definitely suffer from the effects of the sun, including sunburn. Animals with short fur are particularly vulnerable but nearly any type of dog can get sunburned, as well as suffer from heat stroke and other issues.
Fur May Offer Limited Protection from the Sun’s Rays
Think that your pet’s fur will protect their canine skin? It may offer a small, but temporary, benefit. However, there are other areas on your pet’s body that may have little to no fur, including the interior and exterior of the ears, the belly and parts of the legs and tail. While it is important to protect pets against those sunrays, the good news is that severe sunburns are rare.
However, just as people hurt and feel ill after spending too much time at the beach or sunning themselves by a pool, dogs can also suffer discomfort from sunburn, particularly if left outside or in enclosed areas without proper protection and shade.
What Kinds of Sunburn Affect Canines?
There are generally two sorts of burns that affect dogs. The first kind of sunburn primarily causes damage to the upper layer of skin and is known as a superficial burn. Since the word “superficial” implies only the tiniest damage, pet owners may assume it is a minor issue.
But even with a superficial burn, the skin can appear bright red and the animal may not want to be touched, display Dog Lethargy or suffer from Dog Loss of Appetite. Being exposed to long periods of sun simply takes a heavy toll on all dogs.
Generally, dogs recover quickly from superficial burns (which are similar to first-degree burns) and blisters do not appear. But the damage is still there and exposure to the sun immediately after the pet gets a superficial burn, can result in more significant problems. It can even lead to a far more serious type of burn, a deep or full thickness burn. If your dog has limited exposure to outdoor sunlight after getting a minor sunburn, a full recovery is likely.
Sunburn in Dogs can Differ from Human Sunburn
Deep burns, whether a partial or full thickness burn, can be compared to second-degree burns in humans. However, the analogy is not completely accurate because humans rarely blister with second-degree burns. Canine skin reacts differently and a deep thickness burn can result in skin blisters. If the sunburn leads to the most severe type of deep thickness burn, the damage can even spread beyond the skin and into the tissues beneath.
Dogs Left in Yards are at a Higher Risk of Sunburn
Pet owners may feel that putting a dog in a fenced yard offers full protection. If there are few to no shade trees, they may not realize that their dog has no way to escape from the sun’s direct rays. Even with a filled water bowl to prevent Dog Dehydration, a dog can suffer greatly from being exposed to the sun for an entire day. A doghouse or entrance to a shed should always be available.
Treating and Preventing Canine Sunburn
A veterinarian can help determine the severity of the burn, but typical treatment includes application of sulfa or other creams or liquids (after the hair is shaved to allow access to the skin). Dogs can generally be treated by their owners in the comfort of their own homes. For more serious burns, full hospitalization may be required for aggressive treatment, from intravenous fluids to daily cleaning and monitoring of the burn. Just as with severe human burns, skins grafts may be necessary, although these are not common in dogs, especially if care is received quickly.
The vet can recommend sunscreens that can help prevent sunburn. Until their dog has been sunburned, owners may not realize that there are special sunscreens made just for dogs. This can help to keep more serious conditions, including Dog Cancers, from developing.