Many people think of sunscreen as something that only people use. This is not actually the case, however, and some dogs do need to wear sunscreen when they go outside to play in the sun. This is particularly true of some breeds that have thinner or finer coats, but all dogs can need sunscreen under the right conditions.
Dogs can get skin cancer, just like people, and they can also burn when they are in the sun for too long. Dogs can also get heatstroke, which can be life-threatening. You will want to avoid these health issues, and sunscreen can make it much less likely that your dog will suffer from them. Knowing what sunscreen products to get and how to apply them can also be helpful for dog owners.
Risks of Sun Exposure for Dogs
Dogs can get sunburns just like people, and dogs with light skin are much more likely to get bad sunburns if they are in the sun for too long. Dogs can also get skin cancer which can be hard to treat even if it has been caught in the early stages. Sunburn can also make autoimmune issues worse for most dogs. Conditions like dermatitis, surgical scars, and other areas where the skin is already inflamed can also be negatively impacted by sunburn.
Heatstroke is the most serious risk to your dog’s health that can be associated with sunburn. Dogs that do not get treatment within half an hour of experiencing heatstroke can die. Your pet should not be exposed to the intense sun or heat for long, even with sunscreen on, because dogs are not efficient at cooling their bodies.
Do Some Dogs Need Sunscreen More Than Others?
Some dog breeds need sunscreen more than others. American Hairless Terriers, Chinese Crested, Dalmatians, Bull Dogs, and Whippets are some of the most at-risk dogs when it comes to sunburn. However, any dog can experience burns to the pads of their feet, the backs of their ears, their bellies, and their noses.
Even dogs with dark coats and dark skin can be at risk for sunburn. It is quite common for dog owners to be unaware that pets with dark noses and dark coats can get sunburned. Remember that the exposed skin on your body is also more likely to burn than places that have hair covering them. The same is true for your pet.
Getting the Right Sunscreen
You will need to make sure that you get the right sunscreen product for your dog. There are various brands of dog-specific sunscreen that are sold. You will need to be sure that you get one of these products so that you are not exposing your dog to chemicals that are bad for them. Dogs cannot be exposed to zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid because these common human sunscreen ingredients are toxic to them.
You will also want unscented sunscreen and one that is waterproof. Dogs do not like strong smells since their noses are so sensitive, and sunscreen that is not waterproof will be easily licked off by your pet. You should also look for a product that is SPF 30 or greater.
Applying Sunscreen to Dogs
You will need to be sure that your dog does not feel like you are attacking them with some kind of weird substance that they don’t want on their face and feet. Be patient and slowly introduce the sunscreen product. You can also discourage licking or chewing at areas with sunscreen on them with positive reinforcement of other behaviors.
Make sure not to get any sunscreen in your dog’s eyes and be certain that you apply the product again every four to six hours. Sunscreen that has been licked off is no good to your dog. You might need to spend some time practicing applying the product at home and discouraging your dog from licking their feet and belly to teach them to be patient about wearing sunscreen.
Puppies can be the hardest dogs to get sunscreen on, so your puppy might need to spend a very limited time outside until they have gotten better about allowing you to apply sunscreen. Puppies are also much more likely to get sunburned and to get heatstroke, so you should limit their time outside in any case.
For dogs that really hate having sunscreen on or that lick the sunscreen off right away, protective clothing might be the right choice to make. You can get sun clothing for your dog that covers large areas of their body to keep the sun off of their faces, feet, and bellies. These clothes can be a better solution for highly active dogs as well that tend to run around, roll, and rub off sunscreen products.
Sunscreen is a Good Idea for All Dogs
No matter what color your dog is or how old they are, they can benefit from wearing sunscreen when they are outside in the sun. Dogs sunburn just like people, and they can also get skin cancer if they get sunburned too many times. Protecting your dog from heatstroke is another very important reason to use sunscreen. Always be sure that your dog is used to wearing sunscreen before you try and take them out to spend a long time in the sun.
Dog owners should be aware that human sunscreen products are not safe for dogs. They are full of toxic substances that can be very bad for dogs. Make sure to get a dog-specific sunscreen product for your pet so that you do not make them sick. You can also get protective sun clothing for your dog if they are not happy about wearing sunscreen, no matter how often you practice applying it. Your dog will be much safer being outside in the sun if they are wearing sunscreen, and pet owners will enjoy the peace of mind that their dog is protected from the harsh rays of the sun.
Give Kryder + Harr Veterinary Clinic a call at (574) 277-6533 if you have questions about your dog and their care!
Welcome to Kryder & Harr Veterinary Clinic! Our animal hospital has been a fixture in the Granger community since 1981, practicing full-service veterinary medicine for all our pet parents and their furry family members. At KHVC, we pride ourselves on our history, of providing excellent customer service for our clients, along with dedicated, compassionate, and exceptional medical care for all of our patients.