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When you head outside to enjoy a day in the sun, you know that the best (and safest!) thing to do is to lather on your SPF. But what about your pet? Can you put sunscreen on a dog?
Turns out, sun protection is just as important for pets as it is for people. And, just like humans, dogs need sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Human sunscreen has harmful ingredients such as zinc oxide, which can be toxic to dogs.
Enter dog sunscreen to protect your best friend. But not all pet-safe sunscreens are created equal—and if you want to keep your dog safe, you need to be very careful about ingredients.
Let’s take a look at how to keep your dog safe this summer with the best dog sunscreen tips.
Do dogs get sunburned?
Dogs have built-in protection from the elements in the form of their furry coat, but even fur can’t block out the sun. Even 30 minutes of direct exposure can lead to sunburn for some dogs.
Delicate, sparsely coated parts of the body are most susceptible to sunburn, including the nose, ears, belly, and any bare or shaved patches.
There are also some types of dogs that are more likely to burn and sustain sun damage than others. White-coated dogs with pink skin need extra protection, as do certain breeds with more exposed skin. According to Banfield Pet Hospital, some of the dog breeds most at risk of sunburn include:
- Staffordshire terriers
- Bull terriers
- Shorthaired pointers
Not sure if your dog is suffering the effects of too much sun? Just like humans, the most obvious sign of sunburn on a dog is red skin that is tender to the touch.
Other signs of dog sunburn can include:
- Hair loss
- Dry or cracked skin (particularly around the ears)
Risks of sun exposure for dogs
Sunburn is just as uncomfortable and painful for your dog as it is for you—and sun exposure can put your pet at serious risk for a number of skin and overall health issues, including:
- Sunburn. As mentioned, dogs can get sunburned. And the more severe the burn, the more serious the issues it can cause with your pet. Severe sunburns can lead to pain, discomfort, peeling, and blistering of the skin.
- Skin cancer. Excessive exposure to the sun without proper skin protection can lead to skin cancer. That’s true for humans and it’s also true for dogs. The most common skin cancer seen in dogs is squamous cell carcinoma, which can cause lesions on the skin that are prone to bleeding.
- Heatstroke. Sun exposure and sunburn can cause your dog to overheat. If your dog’s body temperature rises too high, it can cause heatstroke, which can lead to a host of health problems, including weakness, confusion, and organ failure.
But don’t wait to find out if your dog is susceptible to sunburns—protecting them from the sun is as simple as doing a little shopping!
You want your dog to be able to get out and enjoy the long, sunny days of summer. But you also don’t want them to get a sunburn. The solution? Dog sunscreen, of course!
Other than staying out of the sun completely, dog sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your dog from sunburn. However, not all dog sunscreens are alike, and some are better and more effective for dogs than others.
The first rule of thumb when choosing the right sun protection for your dog? Avoid human sunscreen and choose a product specifically formulated for dogs. SPF protection for humans often contains chemicals that may be toxic to dogs, including the common ingredient zinc oxide.
You also want to look for dog sunscreen that’s going to offer the highest level of protection—without irritating your dog’s skin. When shopping for a dog sunscreen, there are a few different elements you should look for, including:
- Fragrance-free. Added fragrance can irritate your dog’s skin (and nose!), so look for sunscreens that are formulated without it.
- Waterproof. You want to make sure your dog’s skin is protected—even if he decides to cool off with a dip in the ocean or jump in the pool. Look for a waterproof sunscreen that offers the highest level of protection even when your pet gets wet.
- UVA and UVB protection. You want a full-spectrum sunscreen that will protect your dog from all the sun’s harmful UV rays—so look for a sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection.
Need some recommendations for the best dog sunscreen? Luckily, you have options. There are several great dog-specific sunscreens available on the market, including:
This “fine-mist” spray-on formula boasts 30+ SPF protection, easy application, and FDA approval for ingredients and stability.
As a bonus, it’s waterproof, for those sunny days you and your dog cool off in the water.Find on Amazon
With an easy roll-on applicator, this is the perfect choice for dogs who need sunscreen applied to their thin-coated nose and ears.Find on Amazon
Infused with soothing aloe vera, this dog sunscreen is rated in the SPF 15-30 range and can serve as a leave-in conditioner after your fun in the sun is done.
The convenient 4-ounce bottle is also the perfect size for tossing into a bag on your way out the door.Find on Amazon
Infused with shea butter and coconut oil, this dog sun spray is easy to apply and has what reviewers describe as a pleasant natural smell.
It also comes with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.Find on Amazon
This sunscreen balm is specifically for doggy noses. Reviewers praise its creamy consistency and pleasant scent, and it’s a good choice if your dog has particularly pink or bald spots on their nose.
It’s not just a sunscreen, but a balm, so it’s good for pups who get chapped noses during wintertime.Find on Amazon
How to apply sunscreen to dogs
Alright, so now that you know what to look for in a dog sunscreen, let’s quickly cover how to apply it to your dog.
- Test it out. Just like humans, dogs can have adverse skin reactions to products, including sunscreen—so before you put sunscreen on your dog’s entire body, test it on a small patch of skin to make sure there are no issues.
- Rub it in. It’s not enough to slap some sunscreen on your dog and call it a day. If you want your dog sunscreen to be effective, it needs to be properly absorbed into the skin. Make sure you rub in the dog sunscreen so it gets through the fur and absorbs into the skin, which is what really needs protecting.
- Pay close attention to sensitive and exposed areas. If there’s an area of your pet’s body that has more exposed skin (like your dog’s nose, ears, or belly), it’s more likely to get sunburned—so make sure to fully cover the area with sunscreen.
- Reapply regularly. If your dog is going to be out in the sun for long stretches of time, make sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day to keep them protected. You should also reapply dog sunscreen anytime your dog gets wet (like after a run through the sprinklers or a dip in the pool).
Dog sunscreen alternatives
Can dogs wear sunscreen? Yes. But if your dog has sensitive skin, allergies, or a particular penchant for licking, finding a sunscreen that works can be a challenge.
And that’s where clothing comes in!
If your dog can’t wear sunscreen, you can still protect your dog from harmful UVA/UVB rays with dog-friendly sun protection apparel.
Need ideas? Here are a few great sun protection apparel options to protect your dog’s skin from the sun:
- A lightweight, light-colored t-shirt, modified to fit your dog’s torso
- A sun shirt or rash guard
- Dog goggles or sunglasses to protect delicate eyes
- Doggy hats or visors to shade delicate face skin (Playa Pup has multiple sizes and colors)
You can also take a look at our article on dog t-shirts for more ideas on how to cover your furry friend.
What to do if your dog gets a sunburn
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to protect your pet, you might find yourself faced with a redder-than-usual dog at the end of a sunny day.
Here are a few steps to take to alleviate the discomfort and help your dog heal from a sunburn:
- Apply a pet-safe aloe vera treatment. Aloe vera is one of the most soothing treatments for sun-exposed skin. If your dog has a sunburn, head to the pet store and look for a pet-safe aloe vera treatment and apply it to the dog’s skin. (Just make sure the product is labeled as safe for pets, as human aloe vera gel is toxic to pets if ingested).
- Keep your dog out of the sun while they recover. If your dog has a sunburn, direct exposure to the sun is sure to aggravate it. While your dog is recovering, make sure to keep them indoors (or, when outside, in a shaded area).
- If necessary, take your dog to the vet. If your dog has a severe sunburn, they might need more intensive treatment. If your dog’s sunburn is blistering or they appear to be in a lot of pain, make sure to get them to the vet.
You don’t want your dog to get a sunburn—but that doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors when the sun is shining! Just try to avoid direct sun exposure during the brightest time of day, and make sure there’s plenty of shade available.
As mentioned, heatstroke is also a concern in hot, sunny weather, so keep an eye out for symptoms. With a little precaution and preparation, you and your dog can enjoy a fun, safe, burn-free summer!