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, dog sunscreen is a thing, and your pooch may need the protection.
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.
Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? (Answer: Yes!)
You likely know what it’s like to deal with a painful sunburn, and probably wouldn’t wish it on anyone—especially your sweet pup. But just like you, your dog can get a gnarly sunburn when spending time outdoors without protection.
“It’s very important to protect your dog’s skin,” says Tess House, DVM, chief veterinary officer for Heidi’s Village, an animal rescue organization in Phoenix, Arizona.
Sunburns on dogs look a lot like sunburns on humans—skin that appears pink or red (especially on more exposed areas like the belly and nose) and that may be tender to the touch or appear to be itchy, according to Vet West Hospitals. 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,” warns Dr. House. 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. “Taking pictures of the areas of concern can also help document any changes in terms of color, size or appearance.”
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.
Where (and How Often) to Apply Dog Sunscreen
Going outside? Grab that sunscreen. Dr. House says you should apply sunscreen to your dog anytime you go outside for more than a quick bathroom break. 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?)
“Don’t forget about sensitive areas like your dog’s belly, nose and inside of the ears,” she says. “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,” advises Dr. House.
Additionally, staying in shaded areas helps a lot in protecting your dog from the sun, as does avoiding 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.
“In addition, make sure you remember to keep your pets hydrated when outdoors, and also check the pavement to make sure it is comfortable enough for your dog to walk or run on,” Dr. House says. “If it feels too hot to your hand after five seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog to be on, as well.”
The Best Dog Sunscreens for Well-Protected Pups
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—that can be toxic to pets. Instead, you’ll want to find a sunscreen made specifically for dogs.
“One product that I would specifically recommend is called Epi-Pet Sun Protector Skin Treatment Spray,” says Dr. House, who explains that its non-toxic and FDA-compliant formula gets her stamp of approval. “It’s 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 are two other sunscreen sprays that boast similar quick and convenient application. The former is designed to spray on with a light color that fades onto 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.
If you prefer a spreadable formula, consider the My Dog Nose It! Sun Protection Balm. Made with natural ingredients, such as carnauba wax and ethylhexyl stearate from coconut oil, you can gently massage it onto your doggo’s exposed skin.
Now that you know all the ways in which you can better keep your dog safe from the sun’s UV harmful rays and heat, we wish you amazing (and safe) outdoor adventures all summer long!