Sun exposure can be harmful to anyone, including dogs. Dogs can get sunburned and sunburns can lead to more serious problems, such as cancer. Also, sunburns can exacerbate some medical conditions like auto-immune disorders. Dr. Dori Calloway of VCA Animal Hospitals says hairless and thin-coated dogs can sunburn if exposed to UV rays. Here is what you need to know about sunburn, dogs wearing sunscreen and our top picks for dog sunscreen.
How can dogs get sunburned?
- Spending too much time in the sun
- Lying on concrete
- Laying belly up in the sun
What dogs are more at risk for sunburn?
- Dogs experiencing hair loss or dermatitis
- Dogs recovering from surgeries
- Hairless and thin-coated dogs
Can dogs wear sunscreen?
Not only can dogs wear sunscreen, dogs should wear sunscreen or have at least some kind of sun protection, especially if they fall into an at-risk group. But you cannot put just any sunscreen on your dog. Sunscreen made for people is not safe for dogs. Dogs lick their skin and can ingest chemicals included in human sunscreen, making them sick. Look for these criteria in dog-safe sunscreen:
- Does not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic, which are toxic to dogs.
- Vet recommended
- Low amounts of salicylates
Top picks for dog-safe sunscreen
- My Dog Nose It Sun Protection Balm: a water-resistant moisturizing pet-safe balm that dries quickly and protects from the sun and environment. Also comes in a body and coat spray. Starts $12.99.
- Epi-pet K-9 Care Sunscreen: vet created, water-resistant FDA-approved pet-safe sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection. $17.95.
- Emmy’s Dog Sun Skin Protector: all-natural, non-greasy sunscreen spray made with coconut oil and shea butter. $24.95.
- Sit Stay Forever Organic Sun Screen for Dogs and Cats: toxin-free, organic sun protection with soothing skin moisturizers. $14.99.
- Warren London Dog Sunscreen: this non-oily, lick-safe spray contains aloe vera to soothe and protect sensitive skin. $13.99.
Quick tip: Don’t leave sunscreen balms in a hot place, like a car on a hot day as they can melt.
How to use sunscreen for dogs
Always read the ingredients to make sure it’s safe for your dog. Find a high SPF, preferably SPF 30 or better. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before outdoor activities and reapply every two hours and after swimming. Dr. Lisa Chimes, Founder and CEO of DOG By Dr Lisa; says apply sunscreen to any areas of skin that are light colored or pink as these spots are more prone to sunburn than pigmented skin and densely haired skin.
Apply sunscreen to:
- the bridge of the nose
- ear tips
- skin around lips
- the groin
- inner thighs
- anywhere pigmentation is light or where the fur is thin
Avoid the eyes and genitals. Once applied, watch that your dog doesn’t lick it off for about 10 or 15 minutes; occupy him with a treat or toy until it’s fully absorbed.
Alternatives to dog sunscreen include protective clothing, such as a hat, booties or a canine sun shirt, which can protect against the sun and mosquitos.
Provide your dog with penty of shade and avoid direct sun during the hottest parts of the day to prevent sunburns. See your vet if you notice signs of sunburn, which include reddened skin, scabbing, crusty, itchy or dry skin.