By now you most likely know that daily slathering of a UVA/UVB sunscreen is one of the most effective ways to save your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. This is especially true during the summer when UV rays are the strongest. But did you know that dogs also benefit from sunscreen? Yes, sunscreen for dogs is a thing, and your pooch may also need protection from sun exposure.
Ready for your SPF study sesh? We’ve put the following guide together to help you better understand why dog sunscreen is so important, where to apply it and more.
Sunburns on dogs look a lot like sunburns on humans:
- Skin appears pink or red (especially on more exposed areas like the belly and nose).
- Skin may be tender to the touch or appear to be itchy.
If you see any of the signs of a sunburn listed here, call your vet for advice and appropriate care.
“In addition to the discomfort of sunburns, we can see skin cancers in animals such as melanoma,” says Dr. House.
Sunburns on dogs can also lead to hair loss and scaly skin.
Other steps to take:
- Give your pup a once over for any lumps, bumps, moles or marks. “If you have any concerns about the appearance of your pet's skin, it is best to follow up with your primary care veterinarian,” explains Dr. House.
- Take pictures of the areas of concern: This can also help document any changes in terms of color, size or appearance.
What Dogs Breeds Are More Likely to Get Sunburned?
Dr. House notes that dogs with white fur, thinner fur or lighter skin pigmentation are particularly at risk for developing burns and skin cancers, although sun protection is a good idea for all pets whenever spending time outdoors.
The following dog breeds more susceptible to sunburn:
Dr. House says you should apply sunscreen to your dog anytime you go outside for more than a quick bathroom break.
Tips to applying sunscreen on your dog and protecting them from the sun:
- Apply the sunscreen liberally, working it into their skin and coat, a few minutes before going out and then every two hours you’re outside. And while sunscreen should be a year-round necessity, you’ll of course want to be especially diligent about application during the summer months. (Sound familiar?)
- Apply to sensitive areas, like your dog’s belly, nose and inside of the ears. "Also, some dogs like to sunbathe on their back, [putting them] at risk of skin cancers on their tummy—so be sure to apply the product there, too," adds Dr. House.
- Stay in shaded areas and avoid peak UV index times (when the sun is at its strongest), which typically occur midday. Keeping your walks and outdoor exercise time limited to the early mornings, late afternoons and early evenings will pose less of a UV risk to your dog.
- Check the pavement. Make sure it's comfortable enough for your dog to walk or run on. If it feels too hot to your hand after 5 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog to be on, Dr. House says.
And don't forget to bring water with you!
Now that we’ve covered the importance of sunscreen for dogs and where and when to apply it, you might be wondering if you can just grab your favorite made-for-humans SPF and slather it onto your pup.
Unfortunately, many human sunscreens contain ingredients—such as zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)—that can be toxic to pets. Instead, you’ll want to find a pet-safe sunscreen made specifically for dogs.
Dr. House recommends the following products:
- Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray: This sunscreen spray is non-toxic, boasts a FDA-compliant formula and is available as a spray that you can apply directly onto your dog. Or, you can spray your hands with it and then pet your dog to apply it that way.
- Petkin SPF 15 Doggy Sun Mist and Warren London Dog Sunscreen Spray: These two sunscreen sprays boast similar quick and convenient application. The former is designed to spray on with a light color that fades onto your dog’s skin so you can be sure you don’t miss any spots, while the latter is designed to moisturize as well as protect with the addition of aloe vera.
- My Dog Nose It! Sun Protection Balm: This spreadable formula is made with natural ingredients such as carnauba wax and ethylhexyl stearate from coconut oil that you can gently massage it onto your doggo’s exposed skin.
Protect with Sun Shirts and Hats for Dogs
For dogs with skin too sensitive for topical sunscreen product, another way to protect your dog’s skin is with sun protectant apparel for dogs, like sun shirts or hats.
Frisco's 30+ Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) Beach Rash Guard and 30+ UPF Beach Cap, for example, block up to 98 percent of the sun's harmful UVA and UBV rays--offering protection for sunburn-prone pets.
More ways to keep your pup cool this summer: