Sunscreen For Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

Funny female dog sunbathing on summer vacation wearing sunglasses. Pet relaxing on a hammock at swimming pool.

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The days can get pretty long in summer, and that means that our dogs spend more time in direct sunlight this time of year. Sometimes we can forget that our pups can get sunburns, just like us, and that can lead to skin damage, secondary infections, and skin cancer.

And just like sunscreen helps protect us, it can help reduce the risk of burns and skin cancer for dogs. A fur coat isn’t always enough protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

There are many ways you can help reduce the risk of sunburn for your dog in the summer, including keeping them indoors during the hours when the sun is highest, sticking to shady areas on walks, putting protective clothing on them, and avoiding a full shave of their coat.

But many pet parents forget to include sunscreen as another protective measure for dogs. Here’s what you should know about using sunscreen on your pooch.

Which Sunscreens Are Safe For Dogs?

Yorkshire terrier under the shade

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The best thing you can do to find a safe sunscreen for your dog is to discuss it with your veterinarian. They can make individual recommendations for your specific dog that this article might not be able to.

Your vet will have more experience and be able to provide you with more detailed information. You should absolutely NOT use sunscreen designed for use by human adults on your dog, especially on areas that your dog can lick or chew.

If you’ve discussed with your vet and are looking for sunscreens online, the best choice is to stick to those specifically made for pets. It may be hard to find one that’s trustworthy, as there is only one FDA-compliant sunscreen for pets at this time — it’s Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the only effective sun protection for dogs, but you’ll need to read reviews and check with your vet before you pick a brand.

Words Of Caution

If you’re in a pinch and you absolutely must use sunscreen that’s not designed for dogs, you may be able to get by with one designed for babies or children that is SPF 15 or higher. However, you must still check the ingredients before you apply it to your dog.

Avoid any sunscreen with zinc oxide, which is a common ingredient, but it is toxic to canines and can cause anemia. Also avoid para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and artificially scented sunscreens, as these may also be toxic to dogs.

With any sunscreen, you should test a small amount on a patch of your dog’s skin to see what their reaction will be. Any substance can cause an allergic reaction or irritation, so you should absolutely check to see how your dog handles it before you cover them.

If their skin shows signs of irritation, then you may wish to talk to your vet and try a different brand. You should also make sure that your dog isn’t trying to lick the sunscreen off.

Which Dogs Need Sunscreen?

Woman laying down on lounge chair by swimming pool and holding dog on her stomach

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Any dog can benefit from sun protection, but certain dogs are more at risk for sunburns, and sunscreen can help prevent that.

The dogs who face greater risk for sunburns and skin cancer from exposure include those who:

  • Have white or lighter coats or skin
  • Are suffering from hair loss
  • Have been shaved
  • Have thin coats, including Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, Greyhounds, and other short-haired breeds

Obviously, dogs who spend more time outdoors in direct sunlight are also more at risk, as are dogs who like to lie down in sunny spots when they are indoors.

Dogs who’ve suffered from sunburns in the past should definitely wear sunscreen to prevent further damage.

Keep in mind that sunscreen is only one of many ways you should be protecting your dog from the sun’s rays.

When Should You Apply Sunscreen To Your Dog?

Chihuahua/ puddle mix drying of after dip in ocean.

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You should apply sunscreen to your dog when they will spend more than a few minutes outside in direct sunlight, or if they like to lie down in sunny spots while they’re indoors.

This is especially important during the hours when the sunlight is strongest, between 10am and 2pm. You should reapply sunscreen to your dog as recommended throughout the day.

You should also apply sunscreen when you are going for long walks or hikes, trips to the beach or dog park, boat rides, and any other fun outdoor activities.

Where Should You Apply Sunscreen To Your Dog?

boy at pool and english bulldog

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You can apply sunscreen everywhere on your dog, but it’s most important that you apply it to exposed areas or areas where there isn’t much fur coverage.

Areas you should focus on include the snout, face, ears, lips, belly, and groin. If your dog has any areas of light skin, especially pink skin around the nose and snout, pay special attention to those areas.

For dogs who suffer from alopecia, make sure to get any patches where hair has thinned, and if your dog has suffered from a sunburn in the past, cover those areas to avoid further damage.

Follow any instructions on the packaging, or ask your vet for more information on how to properly apply sunscreen to your dog.

Which Sunscreens For Dogs Should You Use?

Men relaxing with dog on beach

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Dog sunscreens come in many different forms. These include creams, sprays, wipes, and sticks that you apply like deodorant. You should ask your vet for advice and decide which works best for you and your dog.

As for which brand of dog sunscreen you should buy, there are many options on the market, and you should rely on your vet’s opinion, online reviews, and recommendations from friends and family to make your decision.

As mentioned earlier, Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets is the only FDA-compliant sunscreen for dogs. You can buy it in a 4 oz. spray bottle, and directions say that you should work the sunscreen into your dog’s skin manually or with a brush.

Which brand of dog sunscreen do you use? How often do you apply sunscreen to your pooch? Let us know in the comments below!

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