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Can dogs get sunburned?

Updated on June 27, 2010

Dogs, like humans are sun worshippers. We humans would stay basking under the hot rays of the sun to get the most coveted tan coloring for the skin. Dogs too need the sun although for a different reason. Dogs love being outdoors especially if it means being with its favorite person. Sunlight is necessary in the production of vitamin D which is essential for the dog’s metabolism. Sunlight does have its benefits both for humans and dogs but basking in the ultra violet rays of “King Sun” must be done in moderation given that similar to humans, dogs can get sunburned too.

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Dogs prone to sunburn

Unlike humans, dogs don’t get sunburned easily as their hair serves as protection against the hot sun. Naturally, hairless breeds just like humans would get sunburned easily. Some dogs though are susceptible to sunburn. These are dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors even during the hottest part of the day. Dogs that have light colored, short and thin hair would have less protection against the hot rays of the sun. The nasal bridge, the tips of the ears, the belly and the exposed skin where the hair parted…these body parts would be sunburned if the dog is allowed to stay outdoors during 11 AM to 3 PM when the sun is hottest. Short legged dogs are more prone to sunburn as they are much closer to the ground. The hot sun would reflect on the sand, on the ground and sunburn the belly and the inner legs.

What are the signs of sunburn?

Redness of skin is one of the telltale signs that the dog was sunburned. A severe case of sunburn would have a somewhat dry and leather-like skin and hair loss. Some layers of the skin may be exposed as well.

Sunburn complications

A sunburned dog would be very uncomfortable not only because of the pain but also because the affected skin will feel hot. Infection can set in on the skin sores. Too much exposure to the ultra violet rays of the sun can lead to skin cancer.

Sunburn treatment

Sunburn in dogs is different from sunburn in humans. By the time the sunburned dog manifests the symptoms, the burn may already be severe enough to warrant the attention of a veterinarian. If this is the case, the dog has to be hospitalized. Antibiotics and IV fluids may be necessary to deal with the electrolyte imbalance of the dog. Less serious cases of sunburn can be treated at home. Cleaning the wound and applying topical medication is all that will be necessary.


Application of sunscreens especially made for pets on the vulnerable areas will prevent the dog from getting sunburned. If your dog is one that prefers to be outdoors even during the hottest part of the day, make sure that the pet is provided with adequate shelter and a bowl of water to keep the dog hydrated. Dogs should be kept inside the house when the temperature outdoors is high but if going out cannot be avoided protect the dog from sun exposure with a doggie dress. Not only would the dog look good, the dress will also gain the dog and the master attention.

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