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What to Do When Your Pet Gets Sunburned

Dr. Marissa Fitzpatrick: Welcome to “RVing Today’s” “Paws on Board.” I’m Dr. Fitz, and this is Ace. Did you know that dogs can get sunburn? That’s right.As crazy as it sounds, some dogs can be susceptible to sunburn. Many dogs don’t have a problem with sun exposure and are protected by their darker, longer coats. However, if you have a short haired dog. such as a pit bull, a Frenchie, a boxer, among many other breeds, sunburn may be a concern. Dogs that have lighter hair, such as white, light brown, or gray, can be at higher risk as well. Finally, if your dog was recently shaved after a grooming or for a surgical procedure, that area of the skin is now at higher risk for harmful sun exposure. Pretty much, all dogs are at risk of sunburn around their nose, around their eyes, their ear tips, and even their lower belly where they have less fur. There are also some skin conditions, usually immune-mediated issues, which can be aggravated by sun exposure, so make sure you address any concerns you have with your veterinarian.

Now that we know dogs can get sunburn, one of the main questions you may have is “Can dogs wear sunscreen?” The short answer is “Yes.” The long answer is “It depends.” There are canine products available on the market that are generally safe for use. There are sprays you can rub into their coat or balms that you can apply to their nose and face. There are some products available for cats as well, but check with your vet about the specific product as not all dogs-safe products are safe for cats. You should be careful which products you use. Dogs will lick and groom themselves, so the sunscreen needs to be safe to ingest in small quantities. Avoid products that contain zinc oxide as this can be toxic for your dog if they ingest it. A lot of human sunscreens actually contain this ingredient. Try to stick with canine-specific products if you can or if you can find a baby-safe sunscreen without the zinc oxide. Although it can be super-difficult, try to stop your dog from licking off the sunscreen while they’re outside. So what do you do if you think your pet may have been sunburned? Well, you should keep your pet out of the sun as much as possible once you notice the burn. This is where a nice A/C unit in the pet-friendly RVs can come in handy. Your pet can stay comfortable indoors and out of the sun. If you have a cone, put this on as it will prevent your dog from licking the area. If you notice anything more than mild redness to the skin such as blistering, moderate-to-severe redness, or pain when you touch the site, you should seek veterinary care. Ultimately, prevention is the best medicine with sunburn as I’m sure many of you have experienced yourselves. Keeping your pet safe and comfortable while traveling is the goal. For more information about traveling safely with your pets, visit

Tune in next time for more pet-health information. I’m Dr. Fitz, and this is Ace. Thanks for watching “Paws on Board “