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How to protect your pet's skin in the sun

This summer, we expect to enjoy a blissfully hot sun-kissed staycation. We’ll be out there in our garden, slathering on the Factor 50, getting someone else to blow up the inflatable unicorn for the paddling pool, and requesting an ice-cold clinking drink from our butler / other half / passing child.

Well, we live in hope.

We know how important it is to wear sunscreen when it’s hot and sunny, and even when it’s not. We’ve had the mantra drummed into us. Although sunshine can make us feel good and help us produce Vitamin D, ultraviolet radiation from the sun’s rays can cause sunburn, skin cancer and prematurely age our skin.

Do dogs get sunburn?

But how about our four-pawed friends? Can they get sunburn too? And do they need sunscreen?

It’s becoming increasingly common to see doggy ice creams advertised at the seaside. So should we be adding puppy sunscreen to our summer shopping list too?

The short answer is that yes. A fur coat doesn’t guarantee protection.

A young fluffy lab

Just like us, dogs can get sunburn. The sun’s UV rays can damage your pet’s skin in just the same way they can cause our skin to blister and peel. And, as with humans, over-exposure to UV rays and sunburn can increase a dog’s risk of developing skin cancer.

Which dogs are more likely to get sunburnt?

Some dogs are more susceptible to sunburn than others. Dogs with lighter coloured or white coats are more at risk than dogs with darker fur. However, just because your Newfoundland has a wonderfully thick long black coat, it doesn’t mean that they won’t get sunburned. And of course, in hot weather, you need to pay attention to make sure that a particularly hairy hound doesn’t get heat stroke.

As you’d expect, hairless breeds and those with very thin coats are at greater risk of sunburn. Think of the Chinese Crested Dog, which is completely hairless (apart from the majorly cute ‘ponytails’ around its ears and its little bobby socks), and the Mexican Hairless Chihuahua.

Perhaps more surprisingly, other breeds that also come into this category include Boxers, Weimaraners, Greyhounds, Dalmatians, French Bulldogs and Bull Terriers.

Watch out for pink ears and noses

An older dog's pink nose

If your dog does have too much fun in the sun, the first areas to show the effects will be their noses and the tips of their ears. The belly and the tip of the tail can also be affected.

The symptoms of sunburn are reddened or blistered skin that’s sore to the touch. In severe cases, your dog might also show signs of weakness, faint or go into shock due to heat exhaustion.

How to treat your dog’s sunburn

The treatment for your dog’s sunburn depends on the severity of the damage.

If your dog’s skin is just a little reddened after being exposed to the sun, take them out of the heat and give them a cool place to lie down and recover for a while. Use an old tea towel soaked in cool water as a cold compress on the sunburnt skin. Don’t rub the affected area with an ice cube, though, as this could do more harm than good.

However, you should take your pet to the vet straight away if your dog has severe burns, is suffering from heat exhaustion or is clearly in pain.

How to prevent sunburn in the first place

As with humans, prevention is always better than cure.

Sunscreen specifically designed for dogs is an excellent idea. Try the Petkin Doggy Sunmist Spray or the Petkin Doggy Sunscreen Wipes. You’ll need to reapply it frequently, though, especially if your dog has just taken a dip.

A word of warning: don’t use human sunscreen on your dog. Many common ingredients in sunscreen that are safe for us are toxic for dogs, particularly zinc oxide.

It’s wise to keep your pooch out of the sun during the heat of the day, typically between 11am and 3pm. And, where possible, provide some shade for your dog, such as a sun umbrella.

You could also have a look at the amazing ranges of summer-friendly dog accessories available online at the moment, from cooling dog vests to cooling mats and even cooling tents.

Please share pictures of your pup on their staycation with us on Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to see them chilling in your back garden, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, drinking a Pawsecco wine, and staying safe in the sun.

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