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Sunburn in dogs

Sunburn in dogs - Masterclip

Tim Ryman |

Sunburn in dogs

Just like us, dogs are susceptible to sunburn which could unfortunately lead to skin cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in dogs. The signs of sunburn are reddened skin that is tender to the touch which could look dry, cracked and curl at the edge. It is usually painful and your dog may itch the site and whimper or move away when touched in the sensitive area.  Severe sunburn can cause inflammation and blistering of the skin and your dog may have a slight fever. Canine skin cancers linked with sun burn include squamous cell carcinoma and hemangiosarcoma.

Dogs do not burn as easily as us, but the incidence of sunburn and skin cancer appears to be on the rise in the UK. Lighter coloured breeds and those with fine and short coats are the most at risk, such as beagles, boxers, hairless breeds such as the Chinese Crested, dalmatians, greyhounds, weimaraners, whippets, white coated German shepherds and Staffordshire bull terriers. However, all dogs regardless of their coat have vulnerable areas with less fur to offer full protection from the sun’s rays. The nose, ears, around the eyes and tummy are the areas that are the most susceptible to sunburn. Whilst dogs that love to lie on their backs in the sun with their tummy exposed are especially at risk, sunlight can also reflect off the ground to burn the underbelly too. Dogs that have a thin coat due to other conditions such as flea allergy, dermatitis or areas of scar tissue are also at a higher risk.


Prevention of sunburn is the best course to protecting your dog and can easily be done by avoiding the sun at its highest levels in the day. Keep your dog inside during the hottest part of the day from 11am -4pm and provide plenty of water.  Provide an easy access shelter outside in gardens as your dog will instinctively seek the shade when the sun’s rays are bearing down. If you’re out for the day, rest in the shade of trees or take an umbrella. Bear in mind shelter may not offer 100% UV protection so apply a dog friendly sunscreen to give them extra protection. Sun cream formulated for us may contain chemicals that are toxic to our them so use one specially formulated for pets so that if it is licked and ingested it won’t cause any harm. For greater coverage, a specialist doggy sun shirt may be worn if spending a lot of time outside.

For dogs that require their coats to be clipped regularly, choose a suitable blade length or comb guide to ensure the coat is not clipped too short to expose the delicate skin. At Masterclip we offer a range of dog clipping blades and comb guards to offer a variety of different clip lengths so you can ensure your dog’s coat has sufficient length in the summer to protect them.

If your dog does get caught in the sun, mild sunburn can be managed at home with cold compresses to reduce the pain and limit further damage. If the sunburn is moderate, painful and over a larger area, your vet can offer daily medicated treatments and wound cleaning and dressing may be necessary.

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