Five things you need to know about your dog’s skin and sun exposure
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Five things you need to know about your dog’s skin and sun exposure

Dogs
Health & Safety

Most of us enjoy the sunshine even if overly hot weather can seem like hard work, and when the weather is bright, everything tends to seem more cheerful and positive too.

Sunlight is good for us and actually necessary for good physical and mental health – and in the winter when the sun isn’t around as much, lots of people suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD, and the side effects of the winter doldrums.

However, we do also know that too much sun can be dangerous, and that problems like sunburn, heatstroke and sun stroke can develop quickly when the weather is hot if you’re not careful – and all of these problems and others too can affect our dogs as well.

However, whilst dogs know when they’re too hot or starting to feel ill because they’ve got too much sun, they don’t know how sunburn occurs, or why this happens in order to be able to take steps to prevent it. This is why it is important for us as dog owners to take special care to look after our dogs and keep them safe in the summer, and limit their level of sun exposure to keep it within safe parameters.

With this in mind, this article will tell you five things you need to know about your dog’s skin and sun exposure. Read on to learn more.

Dogs with pink skin and white fur have a low tolerance for sun exposure

People with pale skin and blonde or ginger hair often joke that they just have to look at a bright light in order to burn, and dogs with pink skin and white fur too have a much lower tolerance for sun exposure than dogs with black skin and darker fur.

Sparse, single-layered fur also offers less protection against the sun than denser fur, although all dogs need to be protected from too much sun exposure, even those that are very shaggy with virtually no visible skin!

The tips of the ears and the end of the nose are most prone to burning on all dogs, even those with lots of fur, and if you can see your dog’s skin through their coat, particularly if that skin is pink, their tolerance for safe sun exposure will be very, very low.

Dog breeds with pink skin and white coats like the Bichon frise and Maltese need particularly vigilant care.

Dogs can get skin cancer too

We all know that humans can get skin cancer, and this can be very variable in appearance, ranging from dark or discoloured patches of skin that can easily be mistaken for dry skin or contact dermatitis, to the formation of warts and moles that are malignant.

Dogs can get skin cancer too, and once more, how this presents can vary a lot, so it is not always easy to keep an eye out for.

You should check your dog’s skin over regularly by parting the fur and getting right down to the roots to look for signs of any problems, changes or anomalies, and if something seems different or odd, ask your vet to check it out.

Sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer in your dog

Dogs can get sunburn and dogs can get skin cancer, and whilst a dog need not ever have received a nasty burn to get skin cancer in the future, sunburn does increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.

Repeated damage to the skin by means of burns is a bit like repeated exposure to the carcinogens in cigarettes increasing the likelihood of lung cancer – and so protecting you dog against sunburn is important not just to prevent transient pain and discomfort, but because it can also help to protect them against more serious problems further down the line too.

There are lots of different options to protect your dog’s skin from the sun

There are lots of different ways to protect your dog from the sun, and you will often find that it is appropriate to use different methods at different times, or a combination of approaches together.

Keeping your dog out of the sun entirely is one option you should consider on very bright days, timing and limiting exposure is another, and using dog-safe sun blocks and sunscreens is one more. Ensuring that your dog can always get to shade if they wish to is vital, and you should never leave your dog outside and unable to escape from the sun.

Coverups like t shirts that physically place a barrier between your dog’s skin and the sun can help too, and you can even buy various types of sunglasses for dogs in the form of goggles!

Dogs can get sunburn even if in the shade – including indoors!

Finally, one thing that not all dog owners realise is that dogs can get sunburn or overexposure to the sun even if they are in the shade. Sunlight reflects and bounces off the ground and other surfaces, and so this results in a level of exposure that can all build up – and even result in sunburn.

Dogs can even get sunburn when indoors if they sit in a window exposed to bright sun or a patch of bright sun on the floor, so bear this in mind too!

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