I love a sunburnt country, not a sunburnt dog

24 January 2018

We are all aware that dogs should not be left in cars and how quickly dogs overheat during summer and the danger this puts them in. But there are other problems with summer that a lot of people don't consider. Just like us, dogs are susceptible to sunburn and they are also at risk of burnt paws.

To help keep your furry friend safe this summer we asked Dr Beth McDonald, our Veterinary Dermatology expert, tips and tricks to ensure your dog is sun safe.

How to keep your dog sun safe

  1. We can easily avoid sunburn and burnt paws by keeping dogs out of the heat in summer. Go for a walk early in the morning or later in the afternoon and avoid the hottest part of the day - 10am to 5pm.

  2. Use sunscreen on your dog to help protect them - SPF 30+ and you can buy doggie sun suits.

  3. Keep your dog off the hot pavements, roads and sand when enjoying quality time with them.

Sun burn is common in dogs

Sun burn is common in dogs. You wouldn't think so because they have a coat of hair to block the suns UV radiation. But if your dog is a sunbaker, they love to lie on their backs and cook! They can get easily sunburnt on the bald skin on the abdomen.

Dogs will also burn on the tips of the ears and bridge of the nose. If you're dog has any white skin they are vulnerable. The white skin does not tan, it will burn. There are no melanocytes (pigment producing skin cells) to absorb the UV radiation.

Sun damage stimulates skin cancers

Like us, it only takes 15 minutes in the middle of the day for sun damage to begin. Sun damage becomes evident in dogs by 3 years of age.

The white skin becomes thickened and scarred compared to black spots beside them. You can run your fingers over the two colours of skin and feel the difference between the smooth soft pigmented skin and the coarse white thickened skin.

Long term sun damage stimulates skin cancers and these might require surgery. The scarring of the sun damage also traps hair follicles under the skin and these form cysts, rupture and become infected.

Breeds that are particular at risk include: British Bull Terriers, Dalmatians, and any other piebald (black and white coated) dogs.

Burnt paws after summertime walks

There are other summer hazards that we need to consider. When it's warm, we all love being out and about with our dogs, but be mindful that the roads and pavements become extremely hot at summertime.

Of course, we are wearing shoes and don't feel the heat from the road surface, but dogs do. Veterinarians see many blistered paws after summertime runs and walks.