Dogs Need Sun Protection, Too
Yes, many dogs do need to wear sunscreen. And yes, dogs can get sunburn! Especially on their delicate, exposed noses. Think of it like this: SPF = Sun Pups Fry.
Though not nearly as common a risk as it is in humans, dogs can also get skin cancer like melanoma. It’s up to you as a pet parent to provide the protection they need.
Taking sun safety into consideration goes beyond sunburn risk. During the summer months, you also need to protect your pet from deadly conditions like heat stroke.
Keep reading to learn how to can protect your dog from an unhealthy amount of sun exposure, the risks of UV rays, as well as what sunscreens are safe to use on pets.
Any Dog Can Get Sunburn
Dogs and dog breeds with short, white coats and pink noses like French bulldogs, boxers, or pit bull-type dogs are most susceptible to sunburn. These breeds might have less hair in certain areas like the armpits and groin, as will dogs who have hair loss from conditions like alopecia. Therefore, these dogs will require sun protection in the warmer months.
Sun damage isn’t limited to dogs with short white coats, either. According to Colorado State University, dogs with black or dark hair can get sunburn, too.
Dr. Jennifer Schissler, of the university’s James Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, explains: “Because black hair absorbs approximately 50 percent more solar heat energy, the temperatures of the skin rapidly rises, causing painful and severe burns of the back.”
Dr. Schissler recommends keeping your pet away from unshaded, sun-exposed areas for prolonged periods of time, as well as keeping water nearby. If getting out of direct sunlight isn’t possible, put a white t-shirt on them that has been soaked in water to keep them cool.
In order to prevent the sun’s harmful rays from damaging your dog’s skin, avoid letting your pooch outside and don’t go for walks during peak hours when the sun is hottest (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Paws Get Brunt, Too!
Don’t forget to protect your pup’s paw pads! Walking on red-hot asphalt can be extremely painful for dogs and can result in serious burns. Avoid walking your dog on pavement or gravel when it’s hot out. If you absolutely must go out, invest in some dog booties to protect your dog’s paw pads.
If you can’t tolerate resting your palm on the ground for more than 10 seconds, then it’s too hot! So, if it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for your dog.
What Kind of Sun Protection to Use
There are some doggy-safe sunscreens on the market you can use, but veterinarians say many human sunscreens can be used as well to prevent the risk of sunburn. For dogs with sensitive skin, baby sunscreen is safest to use.
Corrine Lawson, clinical assistant professor in emergency and critical care at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, recommends fragrance-free sunscreens with UVA and UVB protection.
What to Look For in the Best Dog Sunscreens
When looking for sunscreen to use on your dog, it’s imperative that you read the label of common ingredients. It’s important that any dog-safe sunscreen you use does not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid, which is toxic to dogs if ingested. Many human sunscreens contain those ingredients, so think twice if you think your everyday sunscreen will be OK for your pup.
Look for pet-safe sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher for optimal UV protection. Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray is one of the best dog sunscreens on the market. It is also the only dog sunscreen that has been approved by the FDA.
For dogs with light skin-colored noses, My Dog Nose It balm is great for sun protection as well as for healing dry, cracked noses. Both dog sunscreen brands can be found on Amazon.
How to Treat Dog Sunburn
Dr. Alison Diesel, lecturer in small animal dermatology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says if you notice a “change in the appearance of your pet’s skin, including increased redness, raised skin lesions, bumps or wounds,” then you need to take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
In the meantime, you can help soothe their skin by using cold compresses or putting witch hazel or aloe vera gel on the affected area.
Safe Fun in the Sun
Now that you know that your pup should probably be wearing sunscreen, don’t forget to:
- Always provide fresh water
- Make sure shade is easily accessible
- Use a pet-safe sunscreen without zinc oxide
- Avoid walkies on hot pavement
- Don’t leave your dog out in the sun for prolonged periods of time
- Never leave them in a car
Protect yourself and your pet from harmful ultraviolet rays this summer and use sun protection. Have outdoor fun! Whether you go for a hike, hit the beach, or have a picnic, just remember to find some shade, apply sunscreen, and hydrate often!
What are your dog-friendly summer plans?