You know you need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, but did you know it is equally important for your dog as well?
Certain breeds are particularly susceptible to developing dog sunburn and skin damage. These include light colored dogs with short hair or longer haired dogs that are given a short summer haircut.
The most common areas for dog sunburn to occur is around the edges of the nose, as well as the groin and abdominal area. When a dog walks on a hot sidewalk, his underside is subject to reflected light that bounces off the sidewalk which can result in a sunburn to the underbelly region.
What can you do to protect your dog? Ideally, you should keep your dog indoors during the peak hours of direct sunlight, from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. If this isn’t possible, fit your dog with a white t-shirt that covers as much his body as possible. For small dogs, one in a child’s size should work well whereas larger dogs may need an adult t-shirt for proper fit. You can also buy full sun protection bodysuits for dogs online. If you have a hairless breed of dog, this may be the safest option. Once you’ve covered your dog’s body with clothing, apply sunscreen to exposed areas, particularly around the nose and eye region.
When choosing sun protection for dogs, choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least fifteen and is nontoxic. Avoid ones that have PABA or zinc oxide which can be toxic to dogs. To be safe, it’s best to use a sunscreen specifically designed for dogs. Your veterinarian may be able to make a recommendation. An alternative to a sunscreen made for dogs is to use sunscreen designed for children. Children’s sunscreens are less likely to have added scent and other ingredients that can irritate a dog’s sensitive skin.
When you apply sunscreen to prevent dog sunburn, apply it to any areas where the skin is exposed such as the nose, along the tips of the ears and the underbelly if your dog isn’t wearing protective clothing. Avoid cutting your dog’s hair too short in the summer since hair helps to protect against sun damage.
As in almost any form of cancer in dogs, but especially with certain types of skin cancer, it is critical to identify and treat this disease in its early stages. Examine your dog monthly by separating the hair with your fingers and closely look at the skin. Check for:
Tumors, areas of color change, or scaly, crusty lesions
New growths or a change in color or size of an existing growth calls
Tumors that bleed easily or areas that do not to heal
An area the dog is continually licking or scratching
Swelling in the breast tissue or discharge from a nipple
Suspicious lumps or areas of discoloration under the tail
Masses or tissue that seems different from surrounding areas in the mouth
If you detect any of the above, contact your veterinarian immediately.