Believe it or not, you're not the only one in the fam who can look red and flaky after too much time spent in the sun. Pups can get burnt too (and just like humans, those burns can lead to skin cancer!) We spoke to veterinary dermatologist Dr. Stephanne Schwartz from Dermatology for Animals to answer your hottest questions about the dangers of dogs in the sun.
Are certain pups more susceptible?
"Sunburns most commonly occur in thinly haired areas, such as the armpits, abdomen, groin, and top of the muzzle or nose," says Dr. Schwartz. These affected areas will exhibit redness, flaking, and discomfort, and symptoms will worsen with repeated exposure.
Dr. Schwartz notes that dogs with short coats or lightly colored hair and skin are particularly vulnerable to burns. That includes breeds like Dalmatians, Boxers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, and Beagles. Even pups with lightly colored noses, like Australian Shepherds, have an increased risk of snout sunburn.
How can you protect your pup?
Several dog-friendly sunscreens exist that offer UV protection without any of the toxic ingredients which can be found in human sunscreens. For all over protection in a sprayable formula, Epi-Pet Sun Protector is the only FDA-compliant sunscreen for pets. Beach & Dog Co. offers an all-natural moisturizing cream or stick formula that is perfect for snout application. For midday touch-ups, Petkin Doggy Sunwipes can be easily wiped onto your pup's problem areas for on-the-go protection.
If you don't have any dog-specific sunscreens on hand, Dr. Schwartz recommends a waterproof sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of 30 or greater (baby-safe sunscreens are preferred.) Just avoid any sunscreens that contain zinc oxide, since this can be toxic to pups if ingested.
How should you apply SPF to pups?
You don't have to apply so much sunscreen that your Black Lab becomes a white one–just focus on the most susceptible areas. "Sunscreens should be applied to thinly-haired or non-haired areas, including the top of the nose and muzzle, abdomen, and groin," says Dr. Schwartz. Make sure to apply prior to sun exposure and reapply every 4 to 6 hours or after swimming (just like you do!)
Of course, avoiding the sun is the best way to prevent a sunburn, so Dr. Schwartz suggests protective clothing like T-shirts or UV-blocking suits for extra sun coverage if your pup is particularly susceptible. If you believe your dog has a sunburn, Dr. Schwartz recommends scheduling an appointment with your vet to discuss treatment options as well as how to prevent sunburns from occurring in the future.