SUN EXPOSURE

Just like humans, dogs are prone to sunburn and sun-related medical conditions like skin cancer. With summer coming up, it’s important to have some doggie sunscreen on hand and use it to protect your pup from the sun. Dogs have several areas with light pigmentation, such as their bellies and groin areas, which are particularly susceptible to harm from ultraviolet (UV) rays. 

Additionally, some breeds are more susceptible to UV rays, such as hairless dog breeds, breeds with light-pigmented noses, ears, and eyelids, as well as dogs with thin coats. If you have a breed that is high-risk, it’s imperative that you find a doggie sunscreen that works well for your dog early on in their life. 


What to look for in a sunscreen

You want to find a sunscreen that is specifically formulated for dogs. There’s a ton of different options out there, but since you’ll be applying it often during the summer months, take special note of the following:

  • Once you apply the sunscreen, your dog might lick some of it off so you want to make sure it doesn’t contain anything that is toxic when ingested. Two common toxins are zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Waterproof sunscreen to avoid having to reapply often 
  • Unscented sunscreen
  • SPF of 30 or higher


Applying sunscreen

It might feel odd putting sunscreen on your dog the first few times, but it’s done the same way you apply sunscreen on yourself. The first time you’re using sunscreen, or switching brands, test it on a small portion of light-pigmented skin (like their belly) to make sure there is no allergic reaction. Once safe, apply it to the hot spots that are more sensitive to sunburn and more likely to be exposed. Any places with light-pigmentation such as their nose, ear tips, belly, groin, and inner thighs are common areas to protect. Once you’ve applied the sunscreen, make sure they don’t lick it all off. It should take about 15-20 minutes to fully absorb. 


When to apply

As a rule of thumb, you should reapply every 5 hours or after coming in contact with water. Check your specific sunscreen for timing recommendations, but similar to humans, err on the side of applying more often if you're in the sun with little shade.


Alternatives

Protective clothing

If the idea of lathering up your pup in sunscreen is not appealing, you can also try protective clothing. There are several “sun suits” for dogs that will cover their bodies (that way you only have to protect their noses!), so you don’t have to worry about reapplying. There are even hats and goggles for dogs to protect your pup from the sun. 


Location

Even if you use sunscreen or protective clothing, you should be mindful of how much time your dog is spending in the sun. If your dog likes to sunbathe in the yard all summer, try rearranging their schedule so you can keep them out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day, or provide plenty of shade for them to take advantage of. In addition to sunburn, puppies are at a higher risk for a heat stroke so limiting their sun time is crucial.