Sunburn in Dogs

During these beautiful, sunny, summer days- don’t forget the sun screen- for your dog! Although they do not sunburn as easily as people, dogs can get sunburned. Light-colored or hairless dogs are more at risk than other types of canines. Burn severity is determined by the number of layers of skin that are affected. Therefore, when diagnosing how bad a burn is, a vet may use a lot of big words along with the “thickness” of the burn. Below is a description of the types of burn to help you know what’s going on.

The type of burn most often seen in a dog is a superficial partial thickness burn. Superficial partial thickness burns are similar to first-degree burns in people. In this type of burn, only the top layer of skin is involved and the hair (if present) may still be attached to the skin. The skin appears red and no blisters are seen.

Worse is a deep partial thickness burn. Deep partial thickness burns are similar to second-degree burns in people. The surface layer and some deeper layers of skin are involved. In people a second-degree burn will blister but this is not so in dogs. Instead the skin is red and some layers of the skin may be exposed.

Lastly, although rare, are full thickness burns. Full thickness burns are similar to third-degree burns in people. The burn extends through all layers of skin and may even include tissue beneath the skin. Immediately after the burn, the skin may look like leather or the surface of the burn may appear white.

Obviously, the summer months are going to be the time of year when at-risk animals (hairless and light-colored breeds) are most susceptible to sunburn from too much time spent in the sun. If you suspect your pet has a sunburn, veterinary care is recommended. As mentioned above, dogs do not burn as easily as people, so more damage has occurred to the skin than you may be able to initially see. After diagnosis and initial treatment, daily treatment with wound cleaning and topical medication may be necessary. For dogs at risk, apply sunscreen before spending time outdoors. Just like with us, it is suspected that repeated sunburns may result in permanent skin damage and even possible skin cancer.