Should I Put Sunscreen On My Dog?

Posted by Amanda Langill on

This isn't something I think a lot of dog owners don't consider. But they should. 

It's May and the heat is finally starting to pick up here in the Northeast. That also means it's time to think about once again protecting ourselves from the sun. But should your dog also use sunscreen?

I think a lot of people assume that their fur protects them from those harmful UV Rays. And while that might be true in some sense, it isn't 100% accurate.

So in short, YES. Your dog should be wearing sunscreen, especially in the summer heat. 

Much like you and I, dogs can get sunburnt which then could lead to other different issues and complications down the line that are specifically correlated with sun exposure. Because of this, you absolutely should be protecting your best friend from these risks. There are even sunscreens specifically formulated for dogs.

What Can Happen?

Like us, sunburns can lead to complications and diseases that you never want to face down the line. This can include specific types of skin cancer, such as malignant melanomas, hemangiomas and squamous cell carcinoma. But it doesn't end there. If your dog had surgery, sun burns can cause irritation at those procedure sites. In addition, according to the AKC, "Sunburn also exacerbates certain conditions, for example autoimmune disorders and dermatitis...".

black lab laying in bright green grass

Which Dogs Are Most At Risk?

Obviously you want to protect all of your pups from sunburns. But that doesn't mean all dogs are at equal risk. According to the AKC, "Dogs with white or thin coats and dogs with light-pigmented noses and eyelids are also more at risk for sunburn, for example, Collies, Australian Sheepdogs, Dalmatians, Bulldogs,Whippets, and any dog with light or white pigment on their ears or near their noses."

Another set of dogs that you really need to keep a close eye on are hairless breeds. These dogs include Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, and the American Hairless Terrier. 

You also need to be cautious with your dogs who do have thick coats during the winter who may tend to shed around the warmer times of the year. This can cause their coats to become light enough to where this could become an issue with sunburn. 

Where and How Should I Apply Sunscreen on My Dog? What Do I Buy?

First and foremost, it is super important that you buy sunscreen specifically made for dogs. They should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid. If ingested, these ingredients are toxic to your dogs and, as we know pups, they will lick their skin a lot of the time and accidentally intake some of that sunscreen. Before picking any up at your local pet store, give your veterinarian a call first and ask them if they have any recommendations. They most likely will!

Now the tough part. Getting it onto your dog.

small brown dog laying on towel in sun

First of all, you should test to make sure your dog doesn't have any sort of reaction to the sunscreen by applying a tiny little amount on them. As long as they're okay and you don't notice anything, start applying it to the spots that the sun will see the most. This likely includes the ear tips, groin, around their lips, inner thighs, and bridge of the nose. But all dogs are different, so use your best judgement and make sure to put it on any other areas you might think are at risk. 

Once you're able to get the sunscreen onto your dog, give it 20 minutes to set in (without your dog licking it off), and its time to play outside. From there, like we should -- even though I know a lot of us aren't great with our sunblock reapplying -- reapply every 4 to 6 hours. 

I hope this answers any questions you might have about whether or not you should be applying sunscreen to your dog. Because it's something a lot of people don't think about. When dog owners think about the sun, it's mainly about heat stroke risk. But this is definitely something else you want to make sure you're watching out for. 

We love when the sun comes out and the weather gets warmer, especially here in Massachusetts after some tough winters. But with that also comes other risks, such as these, and even ticks. Make sure you read our other blogs which include, how you should protect your dog from ticks

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