Is Your Dog at Risk for Sunburn?

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Is Your Dog at Risk for Sunburn?

Your dog’s skin is a telltale -- or telltail, as the case may be -- sign he has had too much sun exposure. If your dog is sunburned, his skin will look pinker than normal. It might be more sensitive to the touch too.

Your dog’s sunburn is more than unsightly and uncomfortable; it’s harmful. Like people, dogs exposed to too much sun can develop skin cancers, including hemangiosarcoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in dogs.

A Dollop of Prevention
It’s better to protect your dog’s delicate skin prior to sun exposure than it is to deal with the aftermath of sun damage. If your dog is outside during the day while you’re away, make sure he can take shelter in a doghouse, or under a covered porch or shade tree. But shade doesn’t offer total UV protection, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen lotion too. There’s no need to hunt for special doggie sunscreen; use the same people products on your pet that you use for yourself. Just remember to:

  • Use child-safe SPF 30 to 50 and apply per the label instruction for people
  • Apply to your dog’s most sensitive skin: nose, ear flaps, belly, and any shaved or bare patches
  • Reapply if your dog goes swimming or rubs himself in the grass or sand, especially if the sunscreen is not waterproof
  • Limit your dog’s exposure to the most harmful UV rays during peak sunshine hours

Bellies are particularly susceptible to sunburn because dogs have thinner hair on their stomachs. UV rays reflect up from sidewalks, beach sand and other surfaces and can easily burn your pet’s tender tummy. If your sun-worshiping canine loves to catch a good snooze on his back, be sure to apply sunscreen to his armpits and other exposed underside areas.

Dog Breeds Most Likely to Sunburn
Although all dogs can sunburn, you need to be extra-vigilant about protection if you own a pink-skinned or thin-haired breed, such as:

  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Chinese Crested
  • Dalmatian
  • Greyhound
  • Weimaraner
  • Whippet
  • White German Shepherd

What can you do if your dog does get sunburned? Remove him to a shady or indoor space as soon as possible and apply cold compresses to his skin. See your veterinarian if his skin looks very red or blistered.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/DenGuy

Exceptional Canine expert Ruthanne Chun is a clinical associate professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. She researches ways to improve and prolong quality of life in cancer patients and to enhance communication between veterinarians and their clients.

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Dog sunburn

Posted on August 15, 2011

Chinese crested is only one of the "hairless" breeds. Don't forget the American hairless terrier, Peruvian inca orchid and the famed color.

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Posted on April 20, 2012

You should awyals go to a breeders land or home. This way, you can look around the whelping or kennel areas to see how the pups or the dogs were raised and lived. If you go to a true breeders home, they will usually ask you exactly what you are looking for in teh dog. If you want a family dog or companion. If you want a protection dog or a show dog. Are you interested in a strong willed dog or a pack member dog. Upon giving your description, they will usually suggest one or two dogs specifically for you but will inform you of other options if you are willing to bend your wishes. At this time, you should request to see the dogs ONE AT A TIME. Any dog can be courageous when in a pack but it is when they are left alone with you that you see the true innate character. Here, one at a time, you can see if the dog is shy or bashfull or eager and happy and playfull. What you want is up to you. Asking to see the parents is a very big plus. You can see if there are any visual problems that may have been genetically passed on to the offspring. Be aware though, not all breeders have both the mother and father of the dogs. Sometimes, studs are brought in from other homes or kennels or they might have artificially inseminated the bitch. When you ask about he parents, see the breeders reaction. If they turn happy or eager you know they were happy with the breeding and with teh combination of mother and father. If they don't, you might want to ask more detailed information such as working background, show backgrounds, conformation, titles, etc.. After deciding which dog you are interested in, next comes the talk about papers. Paperwork is important for many reasons but most of all, because with a registration, you can prove the dog is yours if for what ever reason there is ever a dispute. You will want to ask what kennel club the dogs are registered with as well as request a pedigree on teh dog where you can see at least three generations (parent/grandparent/great grandparents). You do this to see if any linebreedign was done as well as to see the background of the dog. After and only after looking at the pedigree and looking at the dog do I discuss prices for the dogs. Depending on the age, breed, pedigree of the dog, prices can be a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. From here, the one thing you WANT to leave with is, obviously the dog, but also the registration paperwork that needs to be sent in to transfer ownership of the dog. Kind of like when you sell or buy a used car, you transfer the pink slip to someone else by signing it over same concept. Afterwords, enjoy your new family member.

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