Can Dogs Get Sunburn?

It sounds strange. After all, dogs have their fur to protect them. Or so one might think. But yes, dogs can get sunburned. And it can hurt them. And, unfortunately, the Jack Russell Terrier is more at risk than most.

How can you protect your dog from sunburn? How can you recognize the symptoms in your pup? And, if it does happen, how can you treat it?

The Basics

All kinds of dogs can get sunburn.

Dogs can get sunburn, just like we can. And, just like with humans, sun damage increases a dog's chance of developing skin cancer.

Why are Jack Russells prone to sun damage? Well, unfortunately, this is a problem for all white and light-colored dogs. Hairless dogs are also at increased risk.

The places most likely to be burned are the hairless places, including the nose and the edges of the mouth. The eyelids, ears, and underbelly are also at higher risk, though sunburn can occur on any part of your pup.

Just like with humans, sunburn is caused by overexposure to UV rays. It's most common in the summer, but can happen at any time of the year.

Unfortunately, sunburn on a dog can look quite different from sunburn on a human. So you have to know what to look for.

How to Recognize Sunburn in Your Dog

PetPlace describes three different kinds of sunburn in dogs.

Superficial partial thickness burns

This is similar to a first-degree burn for a human. This kind of burn involves the first layer of skin, and, just like a human sunburn, that first layer turns red.

Deep partial thickness burns

This is like a second-degree sunburn in a human. Deep partial thickness burns involve multiple layers of skin. Unlike with people, you probably won't see blisters. However, you may see several layers of exposed skin.

Full thickness burns

Like a third-degree burn in a human, full thickness burns affect all the layers of a dog's skin. The skin won't be red, but it may appear white. It may also have a leathery appearance.

How to Treat Sunburn

So if your dog gets a sunburn, what should you do? Well, unfortunately, dogs' skin doesn't start to show damage as early as people's skin does. This means that by the time you see sunburn on your dog, the damage may be greater than you think. If you suspect sunburn, it's always a good idea to see your vet, as professional treatment may be necessary.

What will the vet do?

For superficial-level burns, the vet will probably shave the hair off of the burn area. Then they will wash it with iodine or another solution. Then they will apply a burn cream. After that, you'll need to take care of your pup according to your vet's instructions.

More serious burns may require hospitalization, rehydration, and, possibly, skin grafts.

Home sunburn remedies

If your dog's sunburn is mild, your vet may give you a cream to apply at home, along with care instructions.

Sun Safety for Your Jack

How do you protect your pup from the sun? Well, think of how you might protect yourself: shade and sunscreen.

Sunscreen? Really?

You bet.

The good news is, you don't have to buy a special doggy sunscreen. You can use a child-safe sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50. Use it according to the instructions on the bottle. Apply it to any hairless areas, or areas where the hair is thin. This includes the nose, ears, belly, and so on.

If your dog goes into the water, reapply the sunscreen when he or she comes out. Use child–safe SPF 30 to 50 and apply per the label instructions for people. Apply to your dog’s most sensitive skin: nose, earflaps, belly and any shaved or bare patches.

Reapply if your dog goes swimming or rubs herself in the grass or sand, especially if the sunscreen is not waterproof. The same goes for if your pup rolls around in the grass or dirt.

And if your dog is going to be spending time outdoors in strong sunlight, always make sure that he or she has shade and fresh water available.

Be Sunwise

Sun safety isn't just for the summer, and it's not just for hot, sunny climates. The sensitive skin of a Jack Russell Terrier requires extra care and attention. So be sunwise. Your dog will thank you.

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