Sunny side down: How to prevent damage from the sun

Most dogs love the outdoors, but overexposure to the sun’s rays and heat can lead to health problems. Find out how to make fun in the sun safer for Fido.
By Pets Team
Published on Thursday, 11 August 2016

Our tropical climate makes almost every day a suitable one for Fido to have some fun in the sun. While being active is encouraged and will help your pooch maintain a healthy lifestyle, excessive direct exposure to the sun’s rays can be extremely harmful to him. While dogs may be covered from head to tail in fur, they are still susceptible to damage caused by the sun, especially those with light skin tones or thin coats.

SUN SHIELD
Although sunburn is uncommon in most hounds, and there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that dogs frequently exposed to the sun are at higher risk of skin cancer than those that aren’t, it never hurts to take precautions such as applying sunscreen on Fido. It may seem like quite a challenge, considering that many Singaporeans aren’t even diligent about applying sunscreen on themselves, much less the furkids.

That said, a little effort goes a long way. This is especially so in the areas where your dog has less fuzz, such as his nose. Do yourself (and Fido) a favour by making it a point to put some on before leaving the house. It is best to opt for sunscreens formulated specifically for canines. However, if you are unable to get your hands on one, formulations that are safe for human babies or sensitive skin are a viable alternative. However, avoid any with zinc oxide listed under its ingredients, as it can be toxic to your pooch if consumed. If your furkid has a thick coat, ask the groomer to thin his fur or cut it shorter. But avoid shaving Fido bald, as it exposes his skin to sun damage. Areas with dog hair don’t require protection, so just apply sunscreen to vulnerable areas, such as the nose and the stretch of skin where the belly and hind legs meet—this area is unprotected even on hairy breeds. 

As with any new addition to Fido’s lifestyle, it is important to first test the sunscreen on a small area. Observe if your canine develops an adverse reaction towards it, and consult a vet if a problem arises. Additionally, Dr Grace Heng of The Joyous Vet reminds owners that they need to ensure their dogs do not lick the sunscreen applied. As such, paw-rents can choose to apply a separate protective balm for the nose. Such balms not only boast sun protection properties, but are also made with non-toxic, edible ingredients.

Dressing Fido up may help too. “Similar to fur, clothes act as a physical barrier against UV rays,” says Dr Loon. This is particularly useful for hairless breeds, or those with light-coloured skin. Opt for breathable materials—like cotton—in light colours to keep your furkid cool. If you’re bringing your pooch for a hike, consider performance sun protective garb like Rashguard, which is lightweight and especially designed to block the sun’s rays. 

 

For the full article (more information on the sun's harm and other protective measures), flip to Body and Soul (pg 68) of our Jun-Jul 2016 issue!