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Can Dogs Get A Tan? Or A Sunburn?

When you go outside during the summer, you might get a tan after some time.

Owners who take their dogs to the beach might have this question on their mind: can dogs get a tan like humans?

Although it might not be as noticeable as tanned human skin, dogs can develop tans from sun exposure.

Some spots on your dog’s body are more likely to get tanned than others.

It would also be wise to monitor your dog during intense sunny days to ensure they don’t get overexposed to the sun and risk damaging their skin.

Where Does a Dog Get Tanned?

The most significant area you might notice a tan on your dog is its belly.

Dogs get tans on the exposed parts of their body that don’t have much fur coverage.

Your dog’s fur acts as a shield against direct sunlight, making it less likely to appear on every inch of its body.

Your dog’s body has several places where they can develop a tan, such as:

  • Their stomach
  • Their nose
  • Their ears
  • Their mouth

On warm, bright days, your dog might plop down and roll on its back as they relax.

As it lies down with its stomach up, it receives significant exposure to the sun’s rays, making it tan over time.

How Does This Happen?

The tanning process occurs similarly to how our bodies do it.

Your dog’s skin contains sunlight-sensitive melanocytes that darken their skin through a chemical reaction that produces melanin.

Areas with less fur, such as a dog’s stomach, have more active melanocytes than other hairier spots.

What Are the Risks?

Although dogs can get a tan, it’s not beneficial for their overall health.

Dogs, like humans, can receive too much sun exposure when they don’t limit themselves.

Too much sun exposure isn’t a good idea.

Although minimal tanning won’t immediately harm a dog, it can develop into a sunburn if your dog spends too much time in the sun.

Sunburns can make your dog prone to developing skin cancers, such as malignant melanoma.

When this occurs, check your dog’s skin for any lumps or bumps.

The sooner you check them, the faster you can resolve these issues.

Sunburn Symptoms

Identifying a sunburn on a dog is comparable to how we react to a sunburn.

Unlike the slightly darker tones that tans can give a dog’s skin, a sunburn makes the skin visibly red.

When you touch the skin, it might feel dry and flaky.

Your dog constantly scratching those burned or dry areas also qualifies as a sign.

Continuous scratching can lead to infections in broken skin.

Dogs with irritated skin might be more likely to avoid physical contact in these areas.

Having no tummy rub sessions is a heartbreaking experience we never want to experience.

What Types of Dogs Are More Likely to Develop Tans?

Tans and sunburns aren’t exclusive to specific types of dogs.

Every dog has the potential of getting tanned.

However, some might be more prone to getting them.

These dogs are also more likely to be at risk for sunburn.

Light-Colored or Fair Skinned Dogs

Dogs with light skin or light fur colors tend to have more noticeable tans.

Their skin lacks the pigmentation from melanin production that dogs with darker coats have.

This process is similar to how people with lighter skin complexions develop sunburns.

Dogs with white fur don’t have high pigmentation levels, making them more susceptible to getting tanned or burned on their noses.

Some of these breeds include:

  • Dalmatians
  • Greyhounds
  • Bulldogs
  • Pitbulls

Does your dog have a lighter-colored nose?

If so, take caution.

Pink dog noses don’t have as much melanin as black dog noses, making it a vulnerable area for tans or sunburns.

My Pomsky has a pink spot on his nose, but we limit his time outside.

Heavy Shedders

As warmer months arrive, heavy shedding breeds, such as huskies or sheepdogs, lose layers of fur and develop lighter coats.

The more hair they shed, the more their skin becomes exposed.

Trimming a dog’s heavy coat also affects how much sun exposure they receive.

Hairless and Thin-Haired Dogs

Dog breeds with little to no layers of hair, such as the Chinese Crested and the American Hairless Terrier, need more protection from the sun to avoid developing sunburn or other skin conditions.

When you limit their sun exposure, their tans might be more pronounced than hairier breeds.

Short-haired breeds, such as Whippets or Boxers, don’t have thick coats that protect them from most direct sunlight that hits their exposed skin.

How to Reduce Your Dog’s Tan or Sunburn

As dog owners, we want what’s best for our canine companions.

Although you can’t keep your dog away from the sun forever, there are methods to reduce their tan or prevent sunburn.

Let Them Spend Less Time Outdoors

Limiting your dog’s exposure to the sun’s UV rays can reduce their risk of developing sunburn and skin cancer.

Several factors determine the strength of the sun’s rays, such as the time of day and the season.

It would be best to limit your dog’s time outside by not taking them out between 10AM and 4PM during the spring and summer months.

Any time before or after this timeframe is a safer alternative.

The sun’s strength also amplifies in places that receive higher outdoor temperatures; keep this in mind if you plan a vacation with your dog.

Give Your Dog Shade

Another solution to balance a dog’s tan or prevent sunburn is to provide them excellent shade on the most intense sunny days.

When going to the park, you can find giant trees to sit under or pack a portable tent to cool your dog down after an intense play session.

Your dog should have access to water in their shaded rest areas to keep them hydrated.

Use Sunscreen

If you still want to take your dog out for long outings during the summer, you might want to consider using dog-friendly sunscreen.

Most formulas are ideal for protecting and moisturizing your dog’s skin.

Ideally, it would be best to use a waterproof sunscreen that’s SPF 30 and apply it 20 minutes before you leave.

You shouldn’t use human sunscreen containing zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid due to their toxicity to dogs.

Final Thoughts About Dog Tans

Although your dog’s skin can get tanned, I don’t believe it’s the best thing for your dog to experience.

Too much sun equates to sunburns and other harmful skin problems.

Every dog has the potential to get a tan or sunburn, but some are more prone to it than others.

As responsible pet parents, we must think about what’s best for our dogs’ well-being by prioritizing their safety.

The best solution I recommend is limiting your dog’s time outside during the summer and checking for any visible changes on their skin.

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National Canine Research Association of America