The summer is a great time to be a dog owner. You get to take your best buddy on gorgeous hikes, long walks, and cool swims through the season, all while rejoicing that the winter cold is nowhere in sight. But, despite the allure of the sunshine, the truth is that it can be just as damaging for a dog’s skin as it is for yours. Sun damage, plus other seasonal factors, can leave your dog feeling itchy, achy, or worse. That’s why it is important to be able to spot common summer skin conditions in dogs and the best way of treating them.
In this article we’ll cover:
- Sunburn in dogs
- Hot spots
- Burned paws
- The best products for protecting your dog against the sun, heat, and anything summer can throw at you
Almost everyone has experienced the painful, irritating sensation of sunburn at least once in their life. The red skin, tightness, itchiness, and peeling are notoriously iconic parts of any sun filled summer romp. What dog owners may not realize, however, is that dogs are just as susceptible to sunburn as we are.
Dogs most frequently exhibit sunburn on the tips of their ears, the bridge of their nose, the skin around their lips, the groin, the inner legs, and the underbelly. These are all areas with thinner fur, meaning the sensitive skin underneath is more exposed to the sun’s damaging rays. Dogs with light colored coats or thin hair types are likely to experience more severe burns than dogs with dark, thick fur. And, if left unchecked, chronic sunburn and sun damage can potentially lead to the development of skin cancer.
While the first recommendation human and dog dermatologists always give is to avoid the sun during peak hours, so from 10 AM to 3 PM, this is not always possible and severely cuts down on time for you and your pup to enjoy the great outdoors. An alternative is to use sunscreen formulated for dogs.
Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray
When choosing a sunscreen for your dog, it is important to choose a variety that is vet approved. Owners should also review ingredient lists, checking for certain materials such as zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid, both of which are toxic to dogs. It is also best to use a sunscreen that is waterproof and boasts a minimum of 30 SPF.
When applying sunscreen, dog’s only need a light coating with a dab more on problem areas like the nose, tummy, and ears. Areas like the back, where the hair is thicker and more protective, will need much less.
Good Housekeeping recommends Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray, available for $17.95 on Amazon. It is the only dog-specific sunscreen that is FDA approved. It is waterproof, has an SPF of 30+, and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
While not directly caused by the sun, hot spots are common summer health problems for dogs. Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis, are areas of skin inflammation and bacterial infection. Hot spots may appear as red, inflamed, bald patches that are moist to the touch and produce discharge. They begin as small red dots, gradually worsening over time due to constant scratching, chewing, and licking.
While they can appear anywhere on a dog’s body, they are spotted most frequently on the head, legs, feet, elbows, and hips. Golden Retrievers, St. Bernards, German Shepherds, Labradors, and Rottweilers are breeds known to exhibit hot spots more frequently than others.
Hot spots can go from small annoyances to a painful health problem due to various skin irritants. Common causes for excess itching in dogs include:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Ear or skin infections
- Anal sac disease
- Stress or boredom
- Dirty or matted fur
- Excess moisture from swimming or bathing
Hot spots are also difficult to positively identify at home, due to the fact that so many skin conditions appear similar on the surface. This means you will most likely need a professional diagnosis from a vet.
After identifying what may be the direct cause of your dog’s hot spots, there are several other actions you can take to further prevent any comebacks. Treatments include:
- Trimming the hair around the problem area to prevent matting and moisture buildup
- Cleaning the area with antiseptic solution
- Using topical or oral antibiotics to combat bacterial infections
- Topical or oral steroids to prevent itching and therefore further skin trauma
- Medicated wipes to keep the hot spot clean
- Utilizing a cone collar to prevent biting and licking
- Regular grooming and exercise
Fauna Care Protect & Condition Spray
In addition to the above treatments, there are several supplemental remedies for soothing and preventing hot spots. This includes Fauna Care’s Protect & Condition Spray.
Made using no preservatives, surfactants, alcohol, or fragrances, the Protect & Condition Spray is a vet-approved way of ensuring your pup’s skin stays healthy and strong all summer long. It acts as a barrier between your dog’s skin and the sun’s rays while simultaneously conditioning their fur to be shiny and silky smooth. With a no touch spray nozzle applicator, it is easy as pie to spritz all over your dog.
You can pick it up on the Fauna Care website for $24.99.
In the summertime, we often find ourselves suffering through a stuffy nose and watery eyes. While dogs also have seasonal allergies, they more often experience them through their skin. If you notice your dog is itching non-stop, has dry or flaky spots, scabs, or hair loss, this may indicate severe allergies.
Like with hot spots, it isn’t easy to diagnose your pet’s allergies at home. It’s better to take your dog into the vet where they can analyze a skin sample from your dog and determine the exact cause of these symptoms. The vet will then be able to prescribe an oral or topical medicine to alleviate any discomfort for your pooch.
NaturVet Aller-911 Allergy Aid Soft Chews
To help combat allergies, dietary supplements are a common way of boosting your dog’s immune system. The NaturVet Aller-911 Allergy Aid Soft Chews contain omegas, antioxidants, DHA, and EPA to help keep your pup healthy through allergy season. These ingredients keep skin hydrated and soft while also promoting respiratory health.
A 90 count bag is available on Chewy for $15.99.
Burned or Cracked Paws
The climbing temperature in the summer can be a source of joy for a lot of folks. It means going to the beach, getting outside, playing in the park, blossoming flowers, and so many other wonderful things. And while our pets enjoy the sun too, the heat has the potential to be dangerous when it comes to their paws.
A dog’s paw pads are fairly tough and built to combat continuous pressure, much like our feet. But, without shoes or other protection, paw pads are vulnerable to extreme temperatures. In the summer, dogs are at risk for severe burns to their paws on asphalt, concrete, and sand. When the outdoor temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the asphalt can be a scorching 125 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a blistering, severe burn.
If you are wondering whether the heat is too much for your dog’s paws, perform the simple seven second test: Go outside and place the back of your hand on the asphalt or concrete. If you cannot hold your hand there for more than seven seconds, it is too hot for your dog’s paws without protection.
Constant exposure to heat or other harsh conditions can also create painful cracks in the surface of the paw. To monitor the health of your dog’s paws, it is best to do regular checks, examining the surface as well as in between the toes. Owners should also consider investing in all-weather protection for their pup’s paws.
Musher's Secret Paw Wax
The most highly recommended form of paw protection is Musher’s Secret Paw Wax. Made using food grade wax, nourishing oils, and Vitamin E, Musher’s Wax provides year round protection against all kinds of weather and terrain. Simply spread a generous dollop on your dog’s paws (and even their nose, ears, and elbows) and rest easy knowing their feet are safe and sound.
Musher’s Secret Paw Wax is sold on Chewy for $21.99.
In the end, the summer should be a time of happiness and relaxation for you and your dog. By preventing these common summer health problems, you are both sure to have a blast whether you spend your days in the sun or in the shade.