Although it may not be at the forefront of owners’ minds, excessive sun exposure in dogs can lead to health problems and decrease quality of life if not managed. Understanding the risks and preparing to protect your dog from the UV rays takes a little thought and consistent action.
Sun Exposure Risks
Excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanomas and hemangiomas, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). Too much time in the sun can also irritate autoimmune disorders and a skin condition called dermatitis. Sunburns can irritate sensitive skin around the face and increase discomfort at surgical sites, where a dog is likely shaved.
Dogs with light eyes are at risk to eye conditions such as pannus, which occurs when UV light damages the cornea. Left unmanaged, pannus can result in blindness. Breeds such as German Shepherds are more likely to develop pannus, according to the Veterinary Clinics of America (VCA).
Dog breeds with more exposed skin and lighter pigmentation are more vulnerable to sun damage. According to the AKC, hairless dog breeds such as the Xoloitzcuintli, American Hairless Terrier, and Chinese Crested need sun protection when they are outside for longer than just a potty break.
Many breeds of dogs possess lighter pigmentation on their coats, noses, and around their eyes. Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Whippets and Collies are just a few dogs with higher likelihood of light skin around their face and body.
Thick-coated dogs aren’t exempt from sun damage. According to the AKC, dogs with double-layered coats can experience coat thinning and then sun damage from too much time outside.
Steps to Protect Your Dog
Take your dogs’ tolerance of wearable objects into consideration when choosing a hat, visor, or goggles for them, and be patient when acclimating your dog to their new wearable item with lots of praise and treats.
Treating a Sunburn
According to Dr. Klein via the AKC, red, flaky skin is a sign that a dog is developing sunburn and they should immediately be moved to the shade or inside.
Cool compresses and ointments may soothe the skin to help relieve the initial symptoms and aloe vera may help a minor burn. A trip to the vet may be in order if the burn is severe enough, and a veterinarian can prescribe cortisone cream to decrease inflammation and antibiotics if an infection occurs due to contaminated blisters. As is with any topical ointment, ensure the dog does not ingest it.
Finally, make sure your pup is getting enough water during warmer weather. Fresh, clean water should be freely available or frequently offered. If you have questions about your dogs’ sun exposure risk and the best preventative actions to take, consult your veterinarian.
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