Dog Tips

Can Dogs Get Sunburn? How to Prevent?

Sunburn is a radiation burn from an overexposure to the sun’s UV (ultra-violet) rays. It affects the skin and the living tissues. We humans use SPFs protect ourselves on a sunny day or a beach vacation. Now our pet dogs may have different genetics and have evolved in a very different way as compared to humans. So, the question here is whether the same sunburns can affect a dog’s skin, or no? And the answer is a clear Yes. Dogs are very well prone to sunburns and other complications and conditions related to over exposure from the sun. While some dogs are more at risk to sunburns than others, the condition is yet prevalent in almost all the breeds out there.

Sunburn Symptoms in Dogs

It is important to know when your dog has got a sunburn. Common signs that can be seen when the dog is experiencing a sunburn are –

  • Red or Pink Skin – The affected part of the skin usually turns red or pink. This is the same tendency as we humans have of the skin changing shades when it is sunburned. A pink shade indicates a milder burn but a deep red one can be more severe. This is going to be the first sign amongst dogs. Later, the burns can worsen within hours or days. The major impacts would be seen after a considerable amount of time and not immediately. 

  • Dry and Flaky Skin – Dryness is another similarity between dogs and humans while a sunburn occurs. After a few hours or days the skin might become flaky as well. The dryness will cause the dogs to itch. Not all, but most of the dogs will experience an urge to over itch. Chewing or scratching may also happen but it comes as a risk of infections and several other bacterial disorders.

  • Blisters – There may be some blisters visible on the skin. These may eventually pop. The good thing is that, blisters are a sign of not so severe sunburns amongst dogs. They indicate that it is not an emergency but anyways a close eye must be kept on them for other symptoms which can be severe. If the number of blisters increase then it is recommended that you take the dog immediately to your vet as they can be quite painful.  

  • Fever – Usually the fever may be low on a moderate sunburn. But is yet not to be ignored and should be taken to a vet at the earliest. The treatment here can include a fluid therapy. 

When to become more concerned about Sunburns in dogs?

A dog getting a sunburn might not be an emergency most of the times. But there can be cases where the symptoms are more than just a shaded skin and it can become a severe issue. For e.g. 

  • When the skin turns dark red or purple – This can be a sign of a deep sunburn. And it is an early sign of such a sunburn. The darker shade indicates that the skin has been burnt more than the usual amount and needs an immediate treatment. 

  • When the blisters increase and are secreting pus – These can be severe and a sign that the skin has now become infected. If left untreated, these can turn into a life-threatening disease.

  • Dehydration – Dogs with a sign of dehydration along with a sunburn is a sign of a severe one. This can also be fatal if left unattended. Especially if your dog is old and has become a little lethargic, at times of dehydration, take him/her to the vet at the earliest. 

  • Severe pain – If your dog can’t move well due to the pain caused by the sunburn, it is severe. If the dog is seen crying, whining or yelping after a few hours or days then it is time to go the vet immediately.

Types of Dogs that are at a high risk of getting sunburned

The impact of the susceptibility of sunburns can vary from breed to breed respective of the geography, age, upbringing, etc. But in general, the 3 most common types of dogs which are comparatively more susceptible to sunburns are – 

  • Short-haired or hairless dogs – The obvious reason here is that the lesser the fur the more the skin is directly exposed to sunlight and hence a higher chance of sunburns 

  • Fair skinned dogs – This is a similar trait found in humans as well. This is because less melanin is produced within the dogs as compared to dark colored dogs. Melanin helps the skin to be protected from the sun and hence the damage that it can do to the DNA. So white hairs or pink skins allow more sunlight to penetrate through and reach the sensitive layers within the skin

  • Dogs with more out-time – Irrespective of it being a sunny day or no, if a dog spends a lot of time outside, he/she is going to be prone to sunburns.  

Dog breeds most prone to Sunburns

While other breeds are also susceptible to sunburns, these breeds are sensitive skinned and are more easily sunburned. Doesn’t mean that sun-care shouldn’t be done for other breeds.

What to do when a dog has got a sunburn?

A cold compress can help soothe the affected spots on the dog’s body. Apart from that there are some ointments are also available which can reduce the impact. Aloe vera gel, given its natural cooling properties, can also cool sunburn and help your dog’s skin heal quicker. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics if your dog’s sunburn is severe enough or starting to look infected.

How to Avoid Sunburns on a Dog

The best way to cure a sunburn is to prevent it from happening in the first place. There are some ways which can help do that.

  • Using a dog sunscreen spray (or sunscreen wipes if you find this easier)

  • Get your dog a sunhat to reduce the risk of sunstroke.

  • Remember to reapply sunscreen if your dog runs into water.

  • Limit your dog’s exposure during the hottest times of the day. Here is a short article what temperature is too hot for dogs

  • Create a shaded space for your dog to relax outside

Dogs do have a tendency to lick the sunscreen off their body. So, it is important to find something that won’t harm your canine if he ingests it. Look for a product that is free of fragrances, PABA and zinc oxide.


Sunscreens are as common in dogs as they are in us humans. A proper sun-care routine can help it not happening in the first place. And in case it happens there are remedies available. However, it is always important to check with your vet if you see any signs and especially the severe one.

Happy Mood and Health to your Doggo and lots of Love and Licks to you! 

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