Too much exposure to sunlight can be harmful not only to humans but to dogs as well. In fact, veterinarians have started to notice an increase in the number of skin diseases that dogs develop because of too much exposure to sunlight.
Dogs possess natural protection from the sun's rays. Their coat physically blocks out solar rays and protects their skin from harmful ultra-violet light. Many dogs also have heavily pigmented skin with an abundance of melanocytes, the cells that help to protect the skin from the sun's damaging rays. Dogs, unlike some humans, also have the common sense to avoid direct sunlight.
Causes of Sunburn in Dogs
Sunburns and sun-related skin problems tend to occur infrequently in dogs, but they do occur. However, for sun damage to occur in pets, a combination of factors must come into play. For example, if the skin is poorly pigmented or lacks pigmentation, it is at high risk. Furthermore, a sparse hair coat or areas of the body that are hairless are also more susceptible. These sensitive areas must be regularly and frequently exposed to the sun in order to cause skin diseases.
Dogs at Risk to Sunburn
The sun's ultraviolet radiation can cause a number of skin problems in dogs. Sunburn, which is actually an inflammation of the skin, can occur. Certain breeds of dogs (such as Dalmatians and white bull terriers) and white cats, are highly susceptible. Certain parts of the body, such as the nose and ears, are also more sensitive than others. Dogs that have been recently groomed, have a thinner and less protective hair coat and are, therefore more susceptible. Repeated sunburns can eventually lead to malignant skin cancer.
Preventing Sunburn in Dogs
You can take safety precautions to minimize the risks the sun's rays pose to your dog. If practicality permits, apply a sunscreen to those parts of your pet's skin that are not pigmented and/or have little or no hair. In many cases, this may be impractical since the pet will immediately lick it off. Keep your pet out of direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day when the sun is strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Whenever possible, provide shade and do not clip your pet's hair coat, especially for the summer. Remember that the hair coat acts as insulation, keeping cold out during the winter and cooling the pet in the summer. The hair also acts as a natural barrier, protecting the skin from the sun.