Dog Sunburn Symptoms, Types, Treatment, Home Natural Remedies, Prevention and Sunscreen Protection

Dog sunburn can take a toll on your pet’s skin. If exposed to direct ultraviolet rays without sunscreen protection, your dog may end up suffering skin cancer. Below we explore the symptoms and types of dog sunburns. We also discuss dogs most susceptible to the burns, dog sunburn treatment, home remedies and protection tips.

Can Dogs Get Sunburn?

Pets love the hot weather. They will enjoy basking in the warm weather. Pet owners have most often wondered if the animal skin is as vulnerable as theirs. In particular, can dogs get sunburn? Though not too common, dog sunburn does happen and its effects are as bad on them as they are on us.

Dog Sunburn

There are specific areas of the dog that are most susceptible to sunburns. These are:

  • The Nose
  • Eyelids
  • Underbelly
  • Around the nozzle
  • Ear tips.

In addition, there are specific dogs that are more vulnerable to dog sunburn than the others. Dogs with fur that is light colored, naturally short haired dogs or dogs that have been shaven and white dogs are among them. Dogs with short legs are also prone to sunburns on the tummy since they are close to reflections of sunrays from the ground. These include breeds such as:

  • Greyhounds
  • Boxers
  • Dalmatians
  • Chinese crested dog
  • Weineramers
  • Pitbulls

Dog Sunburn Symptoms and Types

What does dog sunburn look like? Observing how your dog’s skin looks like can help you in identifying dog sunburns. Although the symptoms exhibited will vary depending on severity, there are some obvious dog sunburn symptoms. These include:

  • Leathery look on the skin
  • White patches.
  • Redness and tenderness on dog’s eyes  and ears and
  • Crusty and dry dog nose.
  • Dry, cracked or curled ear tips.
  • Constant scratching on vulnerable places and whimpering while at it.

Where the dog sunburn is severe, it could lead to loss of hair. In addition, prolonged sun exposure will lead to aggravated skin problems such as infections and skin ulcers. In worst scenarios, it could cause skin cancer in the end. There are different types of dog sunburns as discussed below.

Superficial Partial-Thickness dog sunburns

Where the dog only has the skin looking red without any blisters, these are superficial partial thickness burns. They involve the skin’s top layer and are the equivalent of first degree burns in humans.

Deep Partial Thickness Burns

These affect the dog’s surface layer and extends deeper to the layer beneath. It is the human equivalent of a second-degree burn. Unlike in humans though, no blisters may be seen. However, you could see through the burns to the layers beneath.

Full Thickness Burns

Equivalent to third-degree burns, full thickness dog sunburns are quite severe. It penetrates through all skin layers and could even affect tissues lying beneath the dog’s final skin layer.

Dog Sunburn Treatment

The treatment offered to dogs after suffering a sunburn depends on the severity. For burns that involve large areas, the dog may have to be shaven.

Superficial sunburns are treated by being washed with chlorhexidine or iodine. After this, a topical cream is applied and the dog is sent home with further instructions on how to care for it.

Deep partial sunburns, on the other hand, require hospitalization. The dog will receive topical treatment and have intravenous fluids for hydration. At times, bandaging may be necessary.

Full-thickness dog sunburns are rare but when they happen they require detailed treatment. These will include daily dressings and a stay in the hospital until the dog gets well. Where more the dog has over 15 percent burns, they might have to undergo skin grafts.

Mild Dog Sunburns Home Remedies

Like earlier stated, dog sunburn treatment depends on the extent of damage the skin has suffered. To evaluate whether your dog needs to see a veterinarian, watch if he seems to be in pain and whether there is broken skin. If the burns have not gotten to these and only redness and soreness is apparent, use home remedies for mild dog sunburns to soothe the skin. Below we discuss what to put on dog sunburn to facilitate quick healing.

1.      Aloe Vera

Aloe vera helps to treat soreness and skin inflammation. It is a perfect home remedy for dog sunburns. Simply break a fresh aloe leaf and squeeze out its gel. Spread this on the sunburned skin and repeat up to three times in a day.

2.      Witch Hazel

Due to its antiseptic and astringent properties, witch hazel helps to soothe and facilitate quick healing. In addition, it will cool down the sore skin and relieve inflammation. Apply witch hazel using a clean cloth or a cotton ball to the affected area at least twice each day until the dog sunburned skin heals.

3.      Vitamin E Oil

This is known to help in fast regeneration of skin cells as well as repair of damaged ones. Additionally, the oil can help prevent scarring from the burns. Get a vitamin E oil capsule and break it open. Squeeze out the oil and dab it on the ears, dog nose sunburns, belly or any other affected part.

4.      Over the Counter Products

Where the above home remedies are not available, you could opt for over the counter products meant to soothe dog sunburns. In most cases, the dog’s skin will be dry and thus the product should have moisturizing properties. These will help hydrate the skin and restore its health. Products containing calendula, aloe vera, and tea tree would be a great bet.

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen – Dog Sun Protection

Dog skin just like the human skin is best protected against sunburns. This will help prevent damage resulting from ultraviolet rays. With this being the case, do dogs need sunscreen and can you put sunscreen on a dog?

Dogs do need protection from ultraviolet rays any time they are going outdoors. This is more so for dogs that love sunbathing. Dogs with bald spots, those losing hair, hairless breeds and those suffering allergies need extra care and should, therefore, be protected using sunscreen for dogs since they are more vulnerable.

To ensure that the sunscreen works, always pick a brand specially designed for use by pets. Seeking a recommendation from your vet can help opt for the best. Epi-Pet Sunscreen is one that can help keep your dog protected from getting sunburned.

A commonly asked question in online forums is; “Can dogs use human sunscreen?” Although not recommended, this can be used as a last resort. Cesar’s Way recommends that you use human sunscreen that is safe for babies or one meant for the sensitive screen if you cannot lay your hands on sunscreen meant for dogs.


  • Avoid sunscreen with zinc oxide as an ingredient in them as this could be toxic to dogs. Always check the label before purchasing.
  • Always do a test area on your dog to ensure that they will not have a reaction. Put your product in a small area and observe the skin as well as the dog’s behavior. In case there is no reaction, go ahead and apply it to the vulnerable and exposed areas.

How to Protect your Dog from Sunburns

In addition to giving your dog a sunscreen application, there are additional safety tips you can apply to ensure it doesn’t get sunburned. Discussed below are some ways on how to protect your dog from sunburns.

Protect Dog Eyes from Sunburns

While much has been said about protecting the dog’s skin, the eyes too need sun protection. This is because they tend to be a common spot for melanoma.

dog eyes sunburn protection
Dog goggles for eye sunburn protection

Use dog sunglasses to keep their eyes safe from harmful UV rays.

Avoid Shaving your Dog

If your dog is long haired, allow him to keep his hair. This will act as a protective coat and protect your dog’s against UV rays. To get rid of loose hairs, use an undercoat rake.

Sun Protective Clothing

In some cases, some dogs may react to sunscreen. In such cases, using sun protective clothing can help protect them against UV rays. Dress them in light-colored clothing to help block the rays while at the same time ensuring they are cool enough. This is more so for dogs with this far.

Build them a Shade

In case your dog loves to spend time outdoors in the yard, you could build him a shade. This way he will enjoy being outdoors while at the same time getting the necessary protection against UV rays.

Limit the Exposure of the Dog to UV Rays

In case you are to walk your dog, do not do it when the rays are most strong. Instead, walk your dog early in the morning or in the evening. To protect dogs while indoors, keep the drapes closed when it is bright outside.


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