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Dog Has A Heat Rash on the Belly? What You Need To Know - PawSafe

Dog Has A Heat Rash on the Belly? What You Need To Know

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dog has heat rash on the belly

As a guardian to Amy, my white Bull Terrier, I’ve become quite familiar with the unpleasant heat rashes that can show up on a dog’s belly. Amy’s tummy skin eruptions typically show up during the summer months or when she’s been playing outside for too long. So, how do I know when my dog has a heat rash, and what can I do about it?

Heat rashes on the underside of a dog  can be uncomfortable and potentially harmful if improperly handled. In fact, they can easily lead to skin cancer later on. It’s important to take preventative measures such as limiting outdoor playtime and making sure the dog has plenty of access to cool water.

Understanding what causes these eruptions and knowing how to treat them effectively can ensure your dog stays comfortable during those hot summer days. For more information on this topic, other than our experience, we have sourced some information from The Small Animal Dermatology and the work of Dr. Amanda Burrows, DVM, to help you better understand heat rash in a dog’s belly.

I’ve found that breeds with skin folds or lighter skin are more susceptible to heat rash from warm temperatures. They are also more common in places with strong sunlight, like Australia or California.

The likelihood of solar dermatitis depends on several factors, such as the intensity of the sun where you live, how much time your dog spends outdoors, and their natural skin color. For my own dogs, especially Amy, heat rashes are a constant issue. She has pink skin, lives in a warm climate, and loves to sunbathe. 

This means I need to apply sunscreen on her daily, and monitor her time outside. I bring her inside during the heat of the day and make sure the AC is on. This limits the amount of skin irritation she gets from warm conditions.

Recognizing A Heat Rash On The Tummy

If your dog likes to sunbathe, you can check their skin to look for signs of heat-induced skin problems, particularly where the fur is thinner like the tummy and armpits and their skin is light-colored. Early signs of a skin eruption may include red and flaky skin. 

If your pup continues to sunbathe, these areas can become thicker and rougher, resulting in scaly red spots, hard plaques, or lumps.

In the image below, you can see what it looks like when my dog, Amy, gets a heat rash on the underside where there is no hair to protect her skin from the sun.

Sometimes, dogs may develop actinic comedones, which resemble human blackheads but are caused by sun damage. These blackheads can appear in clusters, like dark spots or minor bumps.

When gently touching the area, it might feel harder than the surrounding skin, even when it looks normal. When these blackheads pop, they can lead to furunculosis, an angry reaction under the skin that can become red and crusty.

I often notice these changes on my dog’s belly and inner thighs when she lies on her side. The nose, ears, and tail can also be affected. This may be worse on one side of the stomach if a dog has a favorite side to lie on in the sun. Warm and humid conditions are a constant issue, not only for the tummy, but under a dog’s legs where the skin rubs against the torso and causes friction. 

This friction in warm temperatures is a contributing factor to this skin condition.

For dogs that lie on their backs frequently, you may also see issues on their belly and around their groin, mainly if they are lying on hot surfaces that reflect sunlight. It can be tricky to diagnose a solar dermatitis if it becomes infected with bacteria, as the infection may alter the appearance of the skin. 

Causes of Heat Rashes In Dogs

A variety of factors can cause summer sores. They occur when a dog’s sweat glands become blocked, leading to inflammation and discomfort. Here are some common causes:

  • Humid environment. In such conditions, our dogs cannot regulate their body temperatures and may become uncomfortable and develop skin irritations. It’s essential to provide them with a relaxed and comfortable living area, especially during summer.
  • Flat-face breeds: Short-snout (brachycephalic) dogs like Pugs are more prone to skin problems in general, and this includes heat rash. Excess weight on these dogs can also create folds that trap warmth and moisture, irritating skin and rashes.
  • Excessive Moisture: Dogs frequently exposed to water or have thick coats that trap moisture are more prone to skin irritation.
  • Poor Grooming: Inadequate grooming or fur matting can create a warm and moist environment, leading to skin irritation.
  • Poor air circulation. Dogs can experience sun poisoning when lying on surfaces without proper airflow, such as carpets and synthetic materials. To avoid this, we can provide them with breathable bedding options like cotton or mesh or train them the place command to get the pup away from poor air circulation carpets. 
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to certain foods, plants, or environmental factors can trigger skin irritations and contribute to skin eruptions.
  • Parasites: Fleas, mites, ticks, and other parasites can cause itching and discomfort, leading to the development of hot spots.
  • Underlying Skin Infections: Pre-existing skin infections or conditions can make dogs more susceptible to solar dermatitis.
  • Scratching or Biting: Dogs that excessively scratch, lick, or bite at their skin may create minor wounds that can become infected and develop into hot spots.

Signs and Symptoms

Knowing the physical symptoms of solar dermatitis on your dog’s belly is essential. Some common signs include:

  • Red, irritated skin: Your dog’s abdomen may appear red, angry, and inflamed.
  • Bumps or pimples: Small bumps or pus-filled pimples may develop, which can be uncomfortable and itchy for your pet.
  • Hair loss: In more severe cases, your dog may begin to lose hair, also known as Alopecia, in the area. Especially when not fed a proper diet.

It’s a good idea to check your dog’s belly regularly, especially if they spend much time outdoors or in hot conditions.

Behavioral Indicators

In addition to the physical symptoms mentioned above, there are also some behavioral indicators to watch out for:

  • Excessive licking or biting: Your dog may constantly lick or bite at the irritated skin, trying to relieve the itchiness.
  • Discomfort or restlessness: Miliaria can cause your dog significant pain. You may notice they’re more restless than usual, pacing around or unable to settle down.
  • Avoidance of warm or stuffy areas: Since solar is a significant contributor to the development of solar dermatitis, your dog may begin avoiding spaces that are too warm or lack proper ventilation.

Preventing Sun Skin Irritation in Dogs

Throughout the summer, the focus remains on supporting the dogs to be comfortable and free from skin eruptions by adopting these preventive measures.

  1. Proper Hydration

    Ensuring that your dog is well-hydrated is crucial in maintaining their overall health. It’s essential during hot weather as it helps regulate their body temperature. Ensure to provide fresh water indoors and outdoors, and carry it on walks.

  2. Adequate Ventilation

    Prioritize creating a comfortable environment in your home, especially during summer. Ensure proper air circulation by keeping windows open or using fans or air conditioning. This helps regulate the temperature indoors, reducing your pup’s risk of solar-related skin problems.

  3. Rest in Cool Areas

    Whenever your dog spends time outside the house during a simmer, make it a point to designate shady spots where they can rest and recharge. This allows them some respite from the sun’s intense warmness, minimizing inflammation from the hotness on their belly. Alternatively, bring a cooling mat on outings, letting them cool down quickly.

  4. Sun Protective Clothing

    Dressing your dog in breathable sun-protective clothing can also help prevent skin eruptions from high temperatures. You can opt for lightweight, UV-resistant fabrics that cover the belly and other exposed areas.

    However, always be mindful not to overdress them, as too many layers might contribute to overheating.

  5. Sunscreen

    Occasionally apply a vet-recommended sunscreen to your dog’s belly and other exposed areas, especially when spending extended periods in the sun. This added layer of protection can help them enjoy their outdoor time without worrying about miliaria (the medical term for a heat rash) development.

  6. Avoid Irritants

    Identify and eliminate potential irritants in your dog’s environment, such as pollen, cleaning products, or chemicals.

  7. Behavioral Monitoring

    Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior. Excessive scratching, licking, or biting may indicate discomfort or allergies.

If you notice any skin irritation from the warmness, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention can prevent the issue from worsening.

Treatment for Dog Heat Rash

When your dog can’t get enough of basking in the sun and ends up with solar dermatitis on her belly, it is always great to look into some vet-recommended treatments to ease her discomfort. These may include:

Topical ointments

For immediate relief, a vet might recommend a cream like hydrocortisone. To minimize redness and irritation, you can apply this to your dog’s affected area, generally once or twice daily. It serves as a mild initiation of treatment, providing quick soothing effects.

Home Remedies

Oral Medications: If your canine’s skin eruptions persist despite using topical treatments, your vet may suggest an oral medication like prednisolone. This works from within, decreasing inflammation and improving their comfort.

Vitamins for Skin Health: Incorporating vitamins into your dog’s diet might also be helpful. Vitamin A is shown to heal skin lesions rapidly, while vitamin E has antioxidant properties that protect skin cells. These can be administered orally and easily added to their regular meals.

Long-term Skin Care: There are additional management options for pooches’ ongoing care. One such option is a cream called tretinoin, which can aid skin healing over time. It might be used for extended periods to maintain skin health, especially for dogs with recurring skin problems. However, always consult your vet before using this, because your dog can be more prone to skin damage with tretinoin, and also to skin cancer if you don’t consistently keep them out of the sun and apply sunscreen, even indoors.

Each dog is an individual, so it’s crucial to collaborate with a vet to design a specific treatment plan suitable for your pet’s unique requirements. They’ll guide you through the options, from instant relief to long-term skin health, guaranteeing that your beloved dog can safely relish the lovely sunshine.

Potential Complications

While many prickly heat on dogs resolve themselves with proper care, it’s crucial to be aware of potential complications that could arise.

  • Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition in dogs that occurs when their body temperature rises to a dangerous level. Dogs cannot cool themselves, primarily relying on panting and vasodilation (expansion of blood vessels) in their ears and paws.
  • Infection: One possibility is a bacterial infection. When the dog’s skin is inflamed or irritated, it can become more susceptible to harmful bacteria. Thankfully, recognizing signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus, can help me take prompt action.
  • Spread of Rash: Without intervention, the rash may spread to larger body areas, making it more challenging to treat.
  • Chronic Skin Issues: Untreated or recurring rashes can contribute to chronic skin problems, leading to discomfort and a decreased quality of life for the dog.
  • Hair Loss: Constant scratching and licking can result in hair loss around the affected area, and in severe cases, the hair may not regrow properly.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Rashes can cause pain, itching, and general discomfort for the dog, affecting their behavior and overall well-being.
  • Systemic Inflammation: In some cases, severe skin inflammation can contribute to systemic issues, affecting other organs and leading to more severe health problems.
  • Secondary Complications: If the initial cause of the rash is an underlying condition such as allergies or parasitic infestations, these issues may persist and worsen without proper treatment.

Observing if your dog experiences rashes frequently or if other signs like excessive itching, sneezing, or coughing accompany them is vital.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best treatment for heat rash in dogs?

The best treatment for skin irritation from the sun in dogs is to keep the affected area clean and dry. Gently clean the area with a mild soap and cool water.

Pat dry with a clean towel and avoid using any creams or ointments unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Additionally, ensure your dog stays calm and well-hydrated to prevent further irritation.

How long does it usually take for a dog’s heat rash to heal?

Usually, a dog’s heat-induced skin eruption can improve within a few days, provided it’s kept clean, and the dog stays cool. However, it could take up to a week or more for the rash to completely heal, depending on the severity of the condition and how well you follow your veterinarian’s recommendations.

What are the common symptoms of heat rash in dogs?

Some common symptoms in dogs with solar dermatitis include red, irritated skin, small bumps, or blisters on the affected area. The belly, groin, and the underarm regions are often involved. Your dog may also show discomfort or itchiness, such as licking, scratching, or biting at the rash.

Can Lyme disease cause heat rash in dogs?

Lyme disease doesn’t directly cause redness and inflammation from solar exposure in dogs. However, Lyme disease can cause various symptoms, including fever and joint pain, which may make your dog more susceptible to solar dermatitis due to increased body temperature and discomfort.

If you suspect your dog has Lyme disease, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How can I prevent heat rash on my dog’s belly?

Keeping your dog cool and well-hydrated in hot weather is essential to prevent skin eruptions on your dog’s stomach. Provide plenty of fresh water, and avoid excessive exercise during peak high temperatures hours. 

Consider using a cooling mat or vest to help regulate your dog’s body temperature. Regular grooming can also help prevent skin eruptions, removing excess hair and allowing the skin to breathe.

Are there any home remedies to help with a dog’s heat rash on the stomach?

A few home remedies can help alleviate a dog’s high-temperature rash on the stomach. A cool bath or a cold compress can relieve the affected area. Additionally, applying  a mix of vitamin E cream and aloe vera can help soothe the inflammation.

Final Thoughts

Heat rash on a dog’s belly can be troubling for the pet and the owner. 

Learn how to spot the signs early on. Common symptoms include red bumps, inflamed skin, and constant itching or licking. Always watch your dog’s belly whenever the weather is hot and humid, as these are perfect conditions for developing heat rash.

Providing a cool, shaded area for your dog to rest during hot days can do wonders. It’s also vital to apply sunscreen.

If you suspect your dog has a heat rash, try lukewarm baths with gentle pet shampoo and a veterinarian-recommended topical ointment, and keep the affected area clean and dry. Remember that it’s crucial to discourage your dog from licking or scratching the rash, as this may lead to infection.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.