Caitlin UltimoHealth / Pet Safety & Injury Prevention

Can Dogs Get Sunburn?

It’s no secret that dogs love the outdoors. While nothing beats fun in the sun, it’s important to prepare your furry family members by protecting them from harmful rays that can cause dog skin cancer. Many of us have experienced sunburns and therefore turn to sunscreen as a method to prevent them—but can dogs get sunburn? Sunburns can just as easily affect dogs as they can your children, which is why it’s important to protect your pooch’s skin.

Are Your Pups at Risk for Dog Sunburn?

Just like humans, dogs can get significant sun damage if they are exposed to too much sun. Moreover, if your pooch has short hair or a light fur color, he may be at higher risk for sun damage than dogs with thicker, fuller and darker coats. Emmy award-winning veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber explains that just like people with fair skin and thin hair are prone to burning in the sun, “Dogs with no hair or dogs who like to lie on their backs in the sun and expose areas with almost no hair need to have proper sunscreen application.”

Other risks include bald spots, light-colored noses and post-surgery stitches. Since every dog is different, there is a chance your pooch has one of the physical qualities that make him susceptible to a dog sunburn.

Are Summer Shaves a Good Idea?

Aside from natural traits, pets can also be put at risk from getting a seemingly beneficial summer haircut. Though many pet parents think they might be doing their pooch a service by giving them a summer shave when temperatures get hot, it isn’t essential and can increase their likelihood of getting sunburned. Dr. Werber explains, “It is not necessary to shave dogs down during the summer because their hair is a thermos and temperature regulator that helps them stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”

Can You Use Human Sunscreen on Dogs?

Most veterinarians advise pet parents against using human sunscreen on dogs. Dr. Werber suggests that pet parents “stay away from cream or ointment sunscreens, because dogs have a tendency to lick them off and digest potentially harmful chemicals.”

Zinc oxide may be an effective component in sunscreen for humans, but for canines, it is toxic and can seriously harm their red blood cells if ingested. Stick to dog sunscreens specifically formulated for dogs such as Petkin doggy sun mist. This gentle, easy-to-use spray can be applied to your dog’s ears, nose, muzzle and any pink skin areas to ensure your pup is protected from dog sunburn.

Keep Sun Exposure at a Minimum

We all know dogs soak up every second of outdoor time they can get. Spring and summertime include loads of fun activities for your pooch, like swimming at the pool, running around the beach, sailing on a boat or walking in the park—all of which give your pup plenty of sun exposure for hours on end. That’s why it’s so important to keep dogs who love the sun sheltered from harmful UV rays that cause dog skin cancer.

Dr. Werber reminds pet parents that “too much sun exposure can cause sun-induced cancer in dogs and cats”, so if your pooch loves catching some rays, “he might just as much like sitting in a patch of sun coming through the window in an inside area, where he is safe from UV rays.”

If you’re on the go, try the Petkin doggy sun stick that can be kept in the car or in your bag when you’re out in the sun and need an easy and quick way to reapply dog sunscreen! 

What Products Are Safe?

Dr. Werber recommends water-based spray sunscreens for your pooch, as these won’t feel greasy, and your pooch will have less of an urge to lick the sunscreen off his coat. Dr. Werber also warns against using sunscreens with alcohol, “as these could dry out your pet’s skin and coat.”

If you’re looking for a dog sunscreen that will both protect your pooch’s skin and add moisture, try My Dog Nose It! sun protection balm. It’s a velvety smooth, pH-balanced formula made with natural, non-toxic ingredients. The Warren London dog sunscreen spray is another effective solution with its non-oily formula that moisturizes your dog’s skin while keeping him protected against harmful UV rays.

Doggy Sunscreen Application

When applying dog sunscreen to your pooch, remember that dogs have sensitive skin and organs. Treat him the way you would treat a child: avoid rough application; stay clear of eyes, inside of the ears and nose to avoid any irritation; and apply the balm or spray to external areas only.

If you are unsure about which products to get for your pooch, make sure to consult your veterinarian, so you can choose the best formulas for your dog.


Having recently moved from rainy Oregon to the sunshine state, Anastasiya Chevtchenko spends her time catching rays by the beach, playing soccer with the locals, and embracing pet heaven – Chewy. A recent Penn graduate, Anastasiya works in Marketing where she hopes to bring in her expertise in international relations to expand the business. When she’s not facetiming her international friends or reading the news in five languages, Anastasiya spends her time working on PR projects, social media brand posts, and writing for Chewy’s Pet Central blog.

Featured Image: via iStock.com/Slonme

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