Sunburns in Dogs

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Hi, I’d like to get information about about sun burn in dogs? Can you share some insight?


Dogs that have sparse, light-colored coats are at the highest risk for sunburn and sun-related illnesses like some types of skin cancer. However, any dog who spends an extended amount of time in the sun could get a sunburn on thinly-haired parts of the body like the bridge of the nose. Sunscreen may help if you think your dog is at risk for sunburn, but if possible, it’s best to simply avoid sun exposure during peak daylight hours.

Some ingredients commonly used in human sunscreens can be dangerous for dogs. For example, when ingested (and what dog won’t try to lick off sunscreen!), zinc oxide can lead to vomiting and potentially to red blood cell abnormalities. Salicylates like homosalate and ethylhexyl salicylate may cause stomach ulcers. Pet-friendly sunscreens generally avoid these ingredients but most don’t benefit from FDA oversight so their safety and efficacy are often unknown.

Tips from Our Vets

Ask the Vet is a series of posts where we answer specific questions sent to us by pet owners. You can send your questions to if you have a question you’d like our vets to answer.

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If you have any specific health concerns related to your pet, please be sure to take the pet to your vet or an emergency vet, or if you have concerns related to something your pet may have eaten another option is to call a pet poison control line. Be aware that there is a fee to use these services. Two that we can recommend are the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 and the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Dr. Jennifer Coates was valedictorian of her graduating class at the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has practiced in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is also the author of numerous articles and books including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian.