Protecting your dog from sunburn

Dogs tend to spend a great deal of their time outside, particularly during the summer months, and after heat stroke, sunburn is the greatest potential hazard of the summer for dogs with light skin and fine fur.

Dog sunbathingWe are all very aware about the need to use sunscreen lotion on ourselves and our children, in order to protect us from burning and harmful UVA and UVB rays that can lead to skin problems and even the development of skin cancer. But one thing that even the most conscientious of dog owners often overlook is the need for suntan lotion to be used on certain types of dogs, in order to protect their delicate skin from the sun too!


If you are not sure if you should be using sunscreen on your own dog, or what type of sunscreens are suitable for dogs, in this article we will look at this in more detail, and make some recommendations. Read on to learn more.

What does sunscreen do?

First of all, it is important to make the distinction between sunscreen lotion that is designed to provide a barrier to protect the skin against the sun, and suntan lotions that are designed to enable people to tan faster! In this article, we are of course talking about the former, and this is the type of suntan lotion that you should be considering using on your dog.

Sunscreen creates a barrier on the skin that filters out the harmful rays of the sun’s spectrum, and allows a person (or dog) that would burn without protection to spend longer outsider in the sun without risking burning. Sunscreen lotions are divided up into SPF “factors,” and the higher the SPF factor, the more protection that they offer to the wearer. The higher the factor, the longer it will allow the wearer to be safely exposed to the sun for, and the fairer or more prone to burning the person or dog is, the higher the factor they will need.

What type of dogs need sunscreen in the sun?

You may assume that your dog’s fur will protect their skin against exposure to the sun and its associated risks, but this is not always the case. If your dog has dark skin and dark, dense fur with no lighter areas or exposed skin, they will probably be fine without sunscreen, but many dogs can benefit from its protection. Dogs that have light coloured fur, very short, fine fur, or lighter areas may need sunscreen, and any exposed areas of skin (such as on the belly or around the muzzle where the fur tends to be finer) should be covered on dogs of all types when out in the sun. Some breeds of dog, such as the Weimaraner and the Boxer are also prone to developing tumours and cancer of the skin, and so should especially be protected.

What sunscreen can you use on dogs?

Today, the market for sunscreen for dogs is becoming increasingly larger, and it is not hard to buy dog-specific products to protect them from the sun! However, all sunscreens essentially fulfil the same role, and so if you pick carefully, there is no reason why you cannot use as generic human sunscreen lotion on your dog. When choosing a sunscreen lotion that will be both suitable and safe for your dog, take into account the following guidelines:

Sunscreen lotions with an SPF factor of less than 15 have been proven to be ineffective against the UV rays that we face today, and may in fact simply serve to oil the skin and quicken burning.

In order to be effective for dogs, a sunscreen with an SPF factor of a minimum of 30 is recommended, in order to ensure protection.

Choose a sunscreen that does not contain ingredients such as zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid, as these can prove toxic to dogs if ingested.

Make sure that the sunscreen you choose is hypoallergenic and fragrance free, to avoid upsetting the delicate balance of your dog’s skin. Sunscreens designed for use on children are usually suitable for use on dogs, as they tend to be less loaded with additives.

Pick a sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection, in order to guard your dog against the two main type of harmful sun rays.

Remember that sunscreen needs to be re-applied regularly in order to remain effective; you cannot just apply it to your dog once per day and leave them to it.

Sunscreen is designed to lengthen the time during which you can stay out in the sun safely, and every type of sunscreen will come with guidelines on how much more time in the sun a good application will give you. Bear this in mind, and never use sunscreen on your dog in place of providing shelter or taking your dog inside when it is too hot.

Some more tips on protecting your dog from the sun

Dog sunbathing 3Get some shade
Dogs (and people) can and do catch the sun even in the shade, but providing a covered area that your dog can use to get out of the sun or ensuring that they can go inside will help to limit their exposure to the sun and keep them safer. Never keep your dog outside in full sun, and check them throughout the day when outside to ensure that they are not wilting or getting burnt.

Dress your dog
If your dog is going to go swimming or be out in the sun a lot and is at risk of sunburn, consider adapting an old t-shirt into a cover-up for your dog, to protect the bulk of their body from the sun. Soaking the t-shirt in cool water before putting it on them can help to cool your dog down, and ensure that wearing an extra layer does not cause them to overheat.

Cooling suits
You can buy specialist cooling suits or vests made to fit all shapes and sizes of dogs, which come in a variety of formats. Some of these suits are designed to hold cooling packs, while others need to be soaked in water before putting them on your dog. These suits can help to keep your dog cool and offer protection from the sun, but remember that when the cooling pack has warmed up or the water in the suit has dried out, you will need to remove or replenish the suit, as otherwise it will simply make your dog hotter as they are wearing an extra layer!

Cooling baths
Hosing your dog down with cool (not cold) water, or allowing them to paddle or lounge around in a paddling pool is a good way of keeping them cool, but will not provide them with any protection from the sun. Don’t lose sight of the fact that water can both cause your dog’s sunscreen to wear off faster, and also, give you a false sense of security about their sun protection. If your dog does get burnt, bathing the burnt area in cool water or allowing your dog to paddle or sit in a cool bath can help with this, as can after sun products designed for use with dogs too. If your dog does get a severe burn that includes blistering or scabs, you should take them along to the vet for treatment, as these may need an antibiotic cream to ensure that the wounds do not become infected.

(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)

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