Health

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? Your SPF Questions, Answered

August 12, 2019

Summer is here, the sun is out, and everybody wants to be outdoors, your dog included. While we know getting too much sun exposure is bad for us, did you know that the same is also true for our canine companions? That’s right. Dogs can get sunburns, depending on their breed, hair type, and more. To see if dog sunscreen is something your dog will need this summer, keep reading below.

Can dogs get sunburned?

As mentioned, it is indeed possible for a dog to sunburn.

However, some dogs are more at risk than others; how likely it is for them to need sunscreen will depend on a few factors.

Hairless dogs should definitely wear sunscreen when outside for extended periods. White-furred dogs tend to be fair-skinned, which makes them more prone to sunburn than other dogs. Dogs with thinner fur and dogs who have light-pigmented ears, noses, and eyelids share a similar susceptibility.

Some dogs that may be more prone to sunburns are:

  • Beagles
  • Bull Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Dalmatians
  • Dogo Argentinos
  • French Bulldogs
  • Greyhounds
  • Hairless breeds such as American Hairless, Chinese Crested, and Xoloitzcuintli terriers
  • Weimaraners
  • Whippets

If you think your dog won’t ever get a sunburn because of their thick coat of fur, think again. Whether due to seasonal shedding or as a symptom of a disease or disorder, hair loss can cause dogs who seem the least at risk to get sunburns.

What are the signs of a dog sunburn?

If you’re beginning to suspect that your dog may have a sunburn, keep an eye out for these common symptoms in your dog:

  • Reddened or cracked skin
  • Blistering
  • Pain while moving or when being touched

Are sunburns dangerous for your dog?

When it comes to dogs, we often see heat exhaustion or heatstroke as the biggest sun-related health concerns.

However, a dog with a sunburn is also at risk for several types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, hemangioma, and hemangiosarcoma.

If your dog has an auto-immune disease or a chronic skin condition, too much sun exposure can worsen their corresponding symptoms.

Is it safe to use sunscreen on your dog?

Yes, you can use sunscreen on your dog, provided you use one made with dog-friendly ingredients.

Sunscreens with the mineral zinc oxide or the chemical para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) are not advisable, as both of these ingredients are highly toxic to dogs.

Opt for sunscreen explicitly labeled as being safe for use on animals. You should also try to find a product that is broad-spectrum, non-scented, waterproof, and with an SPF of 30 or more.

Where should you apply dog sunscreen?

Once you’ve found the right sunscreen for your dog, you should always begin applying it by starting with a patch test.

Dab some sunscreen on a concentrated spot of your dog’s skin to see if any reactions occur.

If you feel it’s okay to continue, apply sunscreen to the following sensitive areas:

  • The nose (particularly its bridge)
  • The belly
  • The groin
  • The inner thighs
  • The ears (particularly their tips)
  • Exposed patches of skin (whether from shaving, shedding, or scarring)

After their sunscreen application is complete, make sure your dog doesn’t try to lick any of it off. Additionally, have your dog stay inside for about 20 minutes to ensure they have absorbed their sunscreen fully before going outdoors.

What else can you do to prevent your dog from sunburning?

Although wearing sunscreen is essential during the summer, it certainly isn’t the only way to protect your dog from the sun.

You might also want to:

  • Have your dog stay indoors or in the shade when the UV index is at its highest, which is typically from 10 AM to 4 PM
  • Invest in UV-blocking dog gear, such as hats, goggles, and clothing

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Curious about other ways your dog can have some fun in the sun this summer? Take a look at our post on how to take your dog on vacation next! For more ways to keep your dog safe and healthy, check out our blog. And for treats and chews your dog won’t refuse, visit our website.