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Does Your Pet Need Sunscreen?

by Barry KuKes

Humans often take precautions to protect themselves from the sun, but should we do the same for our dogs? Can dogs get sunburned?
According to the answer is yes. Like people, dogs are prone to sunburn and other complications and diseases associated with sun exposure. Specific safety measures can lower your dog’s risk of developing severe sun-related medical issues. This includes choosing a dog sunscreen that’s formulated for your best friend.

Sun Risks
Sunburn isn’t just painful for dogs; it can lead to more serious problems, for example, certain types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanomas, and hemangiomas. Sunburn also exacerbates certain conditions, for example, autoimmune disorders and dermatitis, and can cause discomfort at surgery sites. Luckily, careful planning can prevent your dog from catching too many ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Predisposed Dogs
Some dogs are more at risk for sunburn than others. Hairless dog breeds, such as the Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, and American Hairless Terrier, need sun protection when they are outside for long periods. 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 dogs with light or white pigment on their ears or near their nose. Even some dogs with thick coats of hair may experience hair loss from seasonal shedding or a health condition that may cause their coats to become very thin and may be at greater risk for sunburn.
Does your dog love to lie on your patio and feel the sun’s warmth? According to AKC’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Jerry Klein, dogs that lie outside on concrete or on light surfaces, especially those that lie on their backs, can suffer sunburn.

Sunscreen For Dogs
Sunscreen protects dogs from sunburn. Using the wrong type of sunscreen can also cause problems. It’s essential that you only use formulas that are specifically intended as sunscreen for dogs. They should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). These ingredients are toxic to dogs if ingested, and dogs will often lick their skin and accidentally ingest the sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to look for a waterproof, unscented dog sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30.

How To Apply Sunscreen To Dogs
So how do you get your dog-safe sunscreen on your wiggly pup? Carefully. First, test a small amount on one spot to be sure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction. Next, be sure to put it on the spots most exposed to sunshine, such as the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin around his lips, groin, and inner thighs—and anywhere else where pigmentation is light. When applying it to your dog’s head, be sure not to get any in his eyes. Once you apply the sunscreen, watch that your dog doesn’t lick it off for about 10 or 15 minutes—until it’s been absorbed.

You should apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before your dog goes out. While they are out in the sun, reapply the sunscreen every four-to-six hours or after your dog goes swimming.

Remember, adopt, don’t shop.

Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director for the Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach. He can be reached at 386.274.4703, ext. 320, or at