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Do My Dog’s Eyes Need Sun Protection?

Written by Anna Hollisey

Updated

littler terrier staring into the sunset

If you wear sunglasses, you might have wondered whether your dog’s eyes need similar sun protection. Can UV rays affect your dog’s eyesight or health? What should we be doing about it?

We already know that sunscreen is essential for humans, boosting the skin’s natural protection against UV rays. 

What about our fur-babies – don’t their natural coats provide protection against sunshine? This is only partially true. Our dogs’ less furry, more exposed bits – like nose, ears, stomach and eyelids – are susceptible to sunburn. It’s also worth remembering that finer or lighter fur offers less protection against the sun, too. 

Sun damage can be uncomfortable or painful, but it can also lead to skin cancer. And if your dog has dermatitis, especially if it’s caused by an immunity deficiency, sun damage can make their symptoms worse. 

It’s important that owners are aware of these risks, but here’s some good news: there are things that you can do to protect dogs against sun damage.

During summer or in a hot climate, we recommend using pet-specific sunscreen on your dog’s nose and other exposed parts. It also makes sense to plan your walks during cooler parts of the day – or choose shady routes. Although dogs love to sun-bathe, you should discourage it while the sun is very high in the sky. Like children, dogs should be kept in the shade between 11am and 4pm if possible. 

Of course, many dogs have thick coats and dislike lounging in the hot sun. They’re less likely to develop skin-related sun damage. But breeds with fine or no fur – such as Whippets, Boxers, and Hairless Terriers – face a higher risk. 

Did you know? Dogs with white or light-pigmented fur around ears or noses are more likely to get sunburn on their nose and extremities. (This often includes Bulldogs, Collies, and Dalmatians.) 

Sun damage can cause or worsen conditions such as pannus and squamous cell carcinoma. If your dog is at risk of these conditions, your vet may recommend eye protection.

Pannus (Chronic Superficial Keratitis) is an inherited condition which causes lesions on the eyes, leading to blindness. It is known to be worse in dogs who live at high altitudes, since UV exposure exacerbates the lesions. 

Cataracts – which are caused in humans by UV rays – are unlikely to be exacerbated by the sun for dogs. However, cataract surgery can cause irritation, and may warrant some temporary form of eye protection.

Pannus or surgery can cause irritation, and this might make your dog scratch and rub at their eyes. Your vet may provide an e-collar or they might suggest another form of eye protection, such as goggles.

Sun protection goggles (which are also used for dogs who are at risk of sun exposure, such as working dogs and dogs who live or exercise at high altitudes) are usually recommended for dogs with pannus. 

The main problem (as you may have guessed) is persuading your dog to accept eye goggles, which can feel restrictive and frightening.

If possible, visit a store which stocks canine goggles so that you can see how your dog feels about them. No joy with goggles? Your dog might accept a visor (and look mighty awesome as a bonus).

Further Reading

Our blog is a rich resource on canine health, with articles about eye conditions such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Ectropion. We even have a guide to help you check that their ears, eyes, and noses are all healthy! If you’ve noticed a cloud or mist on your dog’s retina, read more about cataracts and what you should do about them.