Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Sun

August 02, 2019

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? Keeping your Dogs Safe in the Sun

When the weather heats up and the sun is high in the sky it becomes routine for many of us to apply, and then reapply, sunscreen when we spend a day out in the sun. Anyone who has experienced the pain of a sunburn knows that time spent lathering on SPF is well worth it.

Which might leave you wondering, does my dog need sunscreen, too? Well, the answer is a little more involved than a simple yes or no.

One thing is for sure, dogs can in fact get a sunburn, and in some cases may benefit from sunscreen when you know they’re going to be in the sun for a long period of time. However, this is not true for all dogs, and certain breeds and scenarios put your dog at a higher risk for sunburn.

Today we’re going to learn more about dogs and their need for sunscreen so that you can protect your canine friend this summer.

Do dogs need sunscreen?

Unlike humans, most dogs are covered in fur or hair that protect their skin from the damaging rays of the sun. For this reason, many dogs do not need sunscreen applied daily or for everyday walks around the block or romps at the dog park. However, some dogs do carry greater risk for sunburn and should get a daily application. In situations where your dog will be in direct sun for extended periods of time, even dogs with thick fur may benefit.

Hairless dog breeds, such as the Chinese Crested Dog or American Hairless Terrier, should wear sunscreen anytime they will be outside on warm sunny days, and especially for extended periods of time between 10am-4pm. Likewise, dogs with very short, thin and light-colored coats will benefit from daily sunscreen use.

If your dog was recently shaved due to an injury or has a bald spot related to allergies, excessive itching or anxiety, this is an area of their body that is at risk for burning and should be covered with sunscreen or protective clothing when exposed to the sun.

Lastly, dogs that have light-colored noses, thinner hair on their ear tips and snouts, or who love to sunbathe and expose their less furry undercarriages, should probably wear sunscreen too.

To assess if your dog needs sunscreen daily you should think about:

  • How thin is my dog’s coat?
  • Does my dog have any bald or shaved spots due to allergies, injury, or for any other reason?
  • Does my dog have light-colored fur?
  • Is my dog’s nose light in color? Do they have thinner fur on their snout and around their ears?

What common dog breeds benefit from sunscreen use?

  • Any hairless dog breeds
  • Dalmatians
  • Collies
  • Whippets
  • Australian Sheep Dogs
  • Greyhounds
  • Boxers
  • Any dogs with light-pigmented noses or short, thin fur.

How to prevent sunburn in dogs?

You can prevent sunburn in dogs in a number of ways. For dogs with the highest risk of sunburn, applying sunscreen in addition to precautionary measures is your best line of defense.

1. Use sunscreen on your dog

When choosing a sunscreen for your dog it’s important to pick a product that does not contain zinc oxide or PABA. These ingredients are toxic to dogs when ingested, and if you’ve spent any time around dogs you know they’re probably going to lick and chew at whatever you apply to their body.

For these reasons, experts recommend getting a sunscreen specifically marketed to dogs, using a baby or children’s sunscreen, or looking into natural SPF alternatives. Epi-Pet Sun Protector is a spray-on sunscreen for use on dogs and horses that is highly reviewed. My Dog Nose It sun protection balm is the perfect option for dogs who only need sun protection on their noses, ear tips, and snouts.

2. Use protective clothing to prevent sunburn on your dog

Another option when it comes to protecting your dog from the sun is the use of clothing. My Siberian Husky suffered a serious injury that resulted in her entire back and hind legs being shaved. That summer, we protected her exposed skin from the sun primarily with clothing while we waited for her double coat to grow back in.

Any thick, dark-colored clothing will provide protection, but clothing designed to provide UV protection is definitely your best bet. Luckily, UPF clothing for your dog does exist! And can be a great option for dogs that are very prone to sunburn.

3. Don’t shave your dog

I mentioned that we spent a summer protecting our Husky’s body from the damaging sun rays when she had to be shaved due to an injury. But medical reasons aside, you should never shave your dog’s fur in an effort to keep them cooler or groom them less.

Your dog’s coat is their best line of defense against sun exposure and works to keep them insulated and cool. For safer ways to keep your dog cool check out, Tips to Keep Your Dog Cool in the Summertime.

4. Avoid extended exposure to the sun

The sun’s rays are typically strongest between 10am and 4pm, so avoiding extended periods of time in the sun during these hours is best for you and Fido to avoid a burn. Additionally, these are the hottest times of the day where your dog is at higher risk for heat exhaustion too.

How to apply sunscreen to my dog?

For the best protection, you want to apply sunscreen to your dog 15-20 minutes before going out into the sun. You also want to keep them from licking off the product during the first 15 minutes to allow their skin to absorb it.

When applying sunscreen, pay extra attention to areas of their body without any fur coverage or especially thin hair. For hairless breeds or breeds with thin, white coats, apply evenly all over their body.

Be sure to reapply your dog's sunscreen after they’ve been swimming or every 4-6 hours.

What does sunburn look like in dogs?

Sunburn in dogs looks very similar to humans. Their skin will appear pink or red and warm to the touch. In more serious burns you will see flaking and peeling skin or even blistering. Like humans, dogs can develop skin cancers such as Basal Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. So, for your dog’s comfort and their long-term health it’s important to avoid burns!

How can you treat your dog’s sunburn?

First of all, you’ll want to get your dog out of the sun and avoid sun exposure until the burn heals. To keep them more comfortable you can apply cold compresses and utilize aloe on their burns.

For more serious burns, it’s worth a trip to the vet where they might recommend a cortisone cream or even an antibiotic or anti-fungal ointment to prevent secondary infections.

Keep your dog safe from the sun this summer!

With the tips in this article, you know exactly how to keep your dog safe and avoid sunburn this summer. Remember to apply sunscreen when appropriate, utilize protective clothing if necessary, and avoid extended time in the sun when its rays are most damaging.

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