Caitlin UltimoHealth / Pet Safety & Injury Prevention

Does My Dog Need to Wear Sunscreen?

As humans living in the 21st century, we know how important it is to use sunscreen, particularly if we spend lots of time outdoors or live at high altitudes or in consistently sunny climates. But is the same true for our dogs? Should we be protecting our pets’ skin from the sun as we do ours?

The truth is that dogs and cats are susceptible to harmful UV rays, just like humans, which means they can also get sunburns, sun damage, and the worst case scenario: skin cancer. So it’s worth it to consider taking the same precautions for them as you would for yourself.

This is particularly true for certain types of dogs, particularly short- or light-haired dogs, such as Scottish Terriers, Pekingese, Boxers, Poodles, Norwegian Elkhounds, Dalmatians, Beagles, Whippets, and White English Bull Terriers. But even long- or dark-haired dogs can be at risk for sun damage and carcinoma growth in the soft or hairless areas of their body, such as the toes, nose, and belly.

Fortunately, there are a number of protective options available. The first is prevention. If your pal spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure he has a cool, shady place where he can take shelter from the harsh afternoon sun. If you live in a very sunny climate, try to schedule walks early in the morning or in the evening when the sun is less intense.

You can also take precautions with sun-protection products made specifically for dogs, such as this therapy balm for their nose, or other sprays and lotions for the rest of their body. Some experts say it’s possible to use sunscreens made for humans, but be careful: chemicals like PABA and zinc oxide that are harmless to humans are toxic to dogs when ingested through licking, and should be avoided entirely. Whatever pet sunscreen you use, be sure to test a small, exposed area away from the face, to see if it causes any reaction on the skin, before applying to the exposed areas.

Give your pet regular screenings and let your vert take a look too. These preventative steps can go a long way in keeping your dog safe, healthy, and sunburn-free.