By now we all know we need to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, but many pooch parents are unaware of the importance of protecting their pooch from the sun too.
Of course dog’s fur naturally protects their skin, but it doesn’t mean dogs can’t be burned by the sun. Lots of pooches love to sunbathe, which puts them at risk of getting sunburn and related carcinomas and melanomas. Certain breeds are particularly susceptible to developing sunburn and skin damage – these include light coloured dogs with short hair or longer haired dogs that have been given a short summer haircut.
Any exposed area of a pooch can get sunburned, especially where there is white or pink skin, but the most susceptible places are the ears (both outer and inner surfaces), snout, nose, eyelids, lips and chest. My pooch Lilly, loves nothing more than to lie in the sun on her back which means I also need to protect her belly area and inner thighs – where dog hair is generally thin. Even dogs who don’t lie out in the sun may need to have their bellies protected if they are out on concrete as it reflects UV rays.
Sunburned skin on pooches looks just like it does on humans – red and inflamed. And just like on humans, the area may feel hot with some skin scaling and flaking. There may also be some hair loss on the sunburned area and pooch’s skin will feel painful, uncomfortable and itchy.
If your pooch does get sunburned:
- Keep them out of the sun in a cool, shaded area.
- Cool down the affected areas with a towel soaked in cold water.
- Give them plenty of fresh, cool water to drink.
- If you are concerned, consult your vet.
The sun emits two ultraviolet (UV) rays that can penetrate and harm dog skin:
UVB Rays – have a short wavelength that reaches the outer layer of skin (the epidermis) and can cause sunburn.
UVA Rays – have a longer wavelength that can penetrate the middle layer of skin (the dermis) and can lead to sun-induced skin cancer.
You need to protect your Pooch from both UVA and UVB rays because, just like with humans, sunburn on dogs can have nasty consequences: UV radiation is a factor in some dog cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma, a malignant cancer which can spread to other parts of the body.
If you find a lump or see a change in the colour of your dog’s skin, it is very important to have them checked by your vet.
CHOOSING A SUN CREAM
Never use a sun cream designed for humans on your pooch. Human sun creams often contain para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) or zinc oxide which can be toxic to dogs. To be safe, use a sun cream developed specifically for dogs.
Unfortunately SPF labelling and claims, like used on human sun cream, are not permitted in pet sun protection products because the FDA has not established a test to determine SPF values in pets. So, instead of looking for SPF values, find a dog sun cream which offers both UVA and UVB protection.
APPLYING SUN CREAM
Before going out in the sun, try any new dog sun cream out on one small area of your pooch’s skin. If you see no adverse reaction, go ahead and apply the sun cream to the rest of their exposed areas – there is no need to coat your dog entirely with sun cream, just the parts where the sun could reach their skin.
There is a bit of technique when it comes to applying sun cream on your dog. Dogs can get a little excited when attention is focused on them, so when I apply sun cream on my pooches, I try to distract them with a few treats and playtime so that they don’t lick the sun cream off.
Apply sun cream 15 minutes before any sun exposure and reapply every two hours or immediately after pooch has gone swimming.
PAMPERED POOCH SUN CREAM
Pampered Pooch Sun Cream contains titanium dioxide which provides both UVA and UVB protection for skin. Titanium dioxide is a natural inert earth mineral and is a widely used ingredient in skin care, cosmetics and sun protection products because it provides effective, broad-spectrum sun protection. Titanium dioxide is considered to have no risk of skin sensitivity so is ideal for pooches with sensitive, redness-prone skin. And, unlike zinc oxide, titanium dioxide is non-toxic and safe for dogs.
The titanium dioxide in Pampered Pooch Sun Cream won’t soak into pooch’s skin. Instead it forms a protected physical barrier to shield pooch’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
Pampered Pooch Sun Cream is free from: Zinc Oxide, Chemical Sunscreens and Nanoparticles.
The pet clothing industry has recently expanded into offering solar-protective gear to help protect our sun-worshiping pooches. You can find protective sunglasses for pooches and canine rash guard shirts and visors with UPF 50 (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Just keep in mind that these products aren't perfect — if your pooch likes to sunbathe on their back, for example, rash guard shirts don't cover the delicate skin between the hind legs so you will still need to use sun cream.
When venturing outdoors in the summer months, try going early in the morning or in the evening when it is not so hot. At these times of day, the air will be easier for your pooch to breathe and the ground will be cooler on their paws. If your pooch does get dry, cracked or sore paws, Pampered Pooch’s Paw Balm can help soothe them.
When you take your pooch to the beach or park, try and find a nice shady area to play or sit in. At the beach let them have a dip in the sea to cool off but remember to rinse off the salt water as it can tangle and dry out your dog’s coat and will sometimes cause itchy skin.
If you are out in the middle of the day, remember to take water with you and a dog friendly bottle or portable bowl. Dogs can become dehydrated very quickly so whether at home or out and about, ensure there is plenty of fresh, drinking water available at all times. On extra hot days, in addition to fresh water, I often give Lilly and Poppy some ice cubes to crunch on – not only does this help keep them cool and hydrated but is fun for them too!
Paddling pools are good too but try not to leave pooch in the sun for too long. Keeping your dog indoors or out of the sun during the hottest times of the day is the best sun protection you can provide.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A CAR
If you know that you will most likely be away from your dog, even just for a couple of minutes, it is much better to leave them at home where they are comfortable and have access to water rather than leave them alone in a car. Even if you park the car in the shade with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car on a summer’s day can reach hazardous and even fatal levels so it isn’t worth the risk.
OVERHEATING AND HEATSTROKE
To help keep your dog cooler during the summer, it is a good idea to brush their coat daily so that there isn’t as much fur heating their body temperature up. However, in some breeds the layers of their coat can actually be effective at helping them stay cool and protecting them from overheating - so before you grab the clippers or head to the groomer and remove their excess fur, check with your vet to see if more or less fur is better for your dog during the hot summer months.
During summer it is important to be aware of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. There are relatively clear signs for heatstroke and heat exhaustion, although they can vary between individual dogs. Signs include incessant panting, drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhoea, mental dullness, uncoordinated movement, disorientation, loss of conscience and collapse. A dog overheating may also lie on their side, be unable or unwilling to move around and they may fail to respond to your voice.
Regardless of what the temperature or humidity is, always monitor your dog carefully for signs of fatigue or heat stroke. If you notice any signs of heatstroke, you’ll need to act immediately:
- Stop any form of exercise.
- Bring your dog into a cool, shaded area.
- Give your pooch fresh, cool water to drink.
- Dampen your pooch down with a wet towel.
- Contact your nearest vet straight away.
As long as you’re aware that the warmer temperatures and stronger sun can adversely affect your Pooch during summer, it really is a great time of year to be a pooch parent! The warmer weather makes me more inclined to take my pooches exploring new parks, walks and beaches.