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Can A Dog Get A Sunburn? Vet Approve Facts & Protection Tips

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on April 27, 2024 by Dogster Team

golden retriever dog in the beach

Can A Dog Get A Sunburn? Vet Approve Facts & Protection Tips

If you’re headed to the beach or pool this summer, you know it’s important to pack the essentials: water, snacks, and, of course, sunscreen. Nothing can ruin a fun day in the sun like the pain of a wicked sunburn, not to mention the long-term danger of skin cancer. But do you need to take precautions to protect your dog as well? Can a dog get a sunburn?

Yes, just like people, dogs can also suffer sunburn if they spend too much time outdoors unprotected. In this article, we’ll talk about how and where dogs get sunburned, which breeds are most at risk, and ways to keep your dog safe. We’ll also cover some other dangers to be aware of as you enjoy the hot summer days with your pup.

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How & Where Dogs Get a Sunburn

Dogs are vulnerable to sunburn on any part of their body with minimal fur coverage. Common areas of concern include the nose, ear tips, lips, belly, and groin. Dogs with short hair and light skin are more at risk than those with thick coats and dark skin.

Anytime a dog spends an extended period outdoors exposed to the sun, they may suffer from sunburn. However, the danger is especially high between 10 am and 4 pm, the peak sun exposure time.

Brown dog sleeping outside
Image by: michaelmehls, Pixabay

The Dangers of Sunburn

Similar to people, dogs who get sunburned may display red, irritated, and painful skin. Their skin may blister as well. Sunburn can also cause scaly skin and hair loss.

Skin cancer is a potential long-term danger for dogs as well as humans. While not all types of canine skin cancer are related to sunburn, it is a potential risk factor. Squamous cell carcinoma is a common tumor in dogs often caused by sun exposure.

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What Breeds Are Most at Risk of Sunburn?

As we mentioned, any dog with short or thin hair and light skin is most vulnerable to getting a sunburn. Hairless dogs, such as the Chinese Crested, are at risk. Other breeds more prone to sunburn include Greyhounds, pit bull-type dogs, Boxers, French Bulldogs, and Dalmatians.

black and white dogs wearing red shirts
Image by: Sandra Seitamaa, Unsplash

How To Protect Your Dog From Sunburn

Minimize your dog’s chances of getting a sunburn by keeping them indoors as much as possible during peak sun hours. If they must be outdoors during those times, there are several options you can use to protect your dog’s skin.

Various protective clothing options are available for dogs who tolerate such accessories. Shirts, bodysuits, or even hats are all possible wardrobe choices. Dog goggles can protect your pup’s eyes from the sun.

Whether you choose to dress your dog for the weather or not, you can protect your pup the same way you protect yourself: sunscreen. Dog-specific sunscreens can be purchased, but if they aren’t available, human baby sunscreen can be used. Make sure the baby sunscreen doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients in case your dog licks themselves and ingests it.

Zinc ingredients are not safe, while titanium dioxide is generally considered okay. To be extra cautious, double-check any sunscreen with your veterinarian before you use it on your dog.

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Other Sun Dangers For Your Dog

Besides sunburn, hot weather and too much sun can pose other dangers for your dog.

Paw Burns

Much like hot asphalt can burn our bare feet, your dog’s paw pads can be injured walking on these surfaces as well. Avoid walking your dog during the hottest part of the day or put protective booties on their feet for safety.

dog laying outside
Image Credit: ArtTower, Pixabay


Heatstroke is a common, life-threatening concern for dogs during the summer months. Dogs don’t have an effective way to cool themselves down like humans do by sweating and can become overheated easily. Flat-faced breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and French Bulldogs are especially at risk.

Most people are aware of the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. However, dogs can also suffer heat stroke if they are left outdoors for a long time during hot weather, even with access to shade and water. They can also become overheated by going on runs, hikes, or performing any strenuous activity when it’s hot out.

Symptoms of heatstroke include rapid breathing, sticky gums, bruising, lethargy, diarrhea, confusion, and seizures. If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, get them out of the sun and into cooler air immediately. Take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment.

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Both you and your dog can enjoy spending time outdoors in the summer as long as you take appropriate precautions. That includes protecting both of you from painful sunburns. Slather on that (dog-safe) sunscreen, and don’t forget to reapply after swimming if your dog is a water-lover. Dogs, especially certain breeds, may love the outdoors, but that doesn’t mean they can tolerate the heat. As a dog owner, it’s up to you to keep your pet safe and healthy as you have fun in the sun!

Featured Image Credit: Pavlo Baliukh, Shutterstock

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