Sunscreen for Dogs


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 22, 2024

Sunscreen for Dogs

Whether you're going to the dog park or taking a long afternoon hike, sun protection is essential for both you and your dog. Excessive exposure to the sun's UV rays is well known to increase a person's risk of skin cancer and eye diseases. But what are the dangers to dogs? Do dogs require sunscreen?

The answer is frequently yes—dogs, like people, are susceptible to sunburn, and sun protection is essential, though how much and under what conditions varies from dog to dog. Continue reading below to learn when and how to protect your pet!

Can Dogs Get Sunburn?

Dogs can definitely get sunburned! Our canine companions, like us, are vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Light-colored dogs with thin coats or exposed skin areas are especially vulnerable. When participating in outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, or simply enjoying a sunny day, it's critical to be aware of the risks of sunburn for your canine companion. While some dogs with darker skin and thicker coats may be naturally protected, those with lighter skin tones require special care.

If your dog gets sunburned, it's not just about aloe vera; seeing a veterinarian is recommended, especially if the sunburn is widespread. Using dog-friendly sunscreen and taking preventive measures is highly recommended to protect your pup from the sun's harmful effects. This will help to ensure your dog's comfort and well-being while you're out and about.

Can Dogs Get Skin Cancer?

While all pets are at risk for skin cancer, those who get more sun exposure, whether because of their lifestyle or where they live, are much more vulnerable. So it stands to reason that pets with less protective pigmentation, which usually indicates a higher risk of skin cancer, should be avoided.

Consider white pets who enjoy spending time outside. Squamous cell carcinoma is a frightening cancer that can develop on the tips of their ears and noses, which are frequently sunburned in dogs. These cancers typically manifest as nasty sores in those areas, and it's critical to act quickly if we want any chance of stopping their spread and keeping our furry friends around.

Are a Dog’s Feet at Risk?


While we often concentrate on protecting a dog's skin and coat from the sun, their feet can also be sunburned. A dog's paw pads, like human skin, can be damaged by the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Understanding the risks and taking preventive measures are critical for ensuring your pet's overall well-being while participating in outdoor activities.

Dog paw pads are made to withstand a variety of terrains and conditions, but they are still susceptible to heat and UV exposure. Sunburn is especially prone to light-colored or thinly haired paw pads. Furthermore, hot surfaces such as pavement, sand, or asphalt can become extremely hot in the sun, potentially burning a dog's paw pads.

Preventive Measures:

Limit Sun Exposure: Avoid walking your dog on hot surfaces during the peak sun hours, and opt for shady areas or grassy paths.

Use Paw Balm or Sunscreen: Applying a dog-safe paw balm or sunscreen can offer a protective barrier against the sun's rays. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on suitable products.

Protective Footwear: If your dog tolerates it, consider using dog booties or protective footwear designed to shield their paw pads from both sunburn and hot surfaces.

Regular Paw Inspection: Regularly examine your dog's paw pads for any signs of damage, redness, or irritation. This can help you catch and address potential issues early.

Hydration Breaks: During outdoor activities, provide your dog with plenty of water to keep them hydrated and help regulate their body temperature.

Sun Protection Doesn’t Equal Overheating Protection


It is essential to protect your four-legged companion from the sun's rays, but it is also critical to understand that protecting against sunburn does not automatically guarantee protection against overheating. Dogs are vulnerable to overheating hazards, especially in hot weather, regardless of whether they are in shaded areas or not. Understanding the distinction between sun and heat protection is critical for ensuring your dog's health and comfort as temperatures rise.

Heat exhaustion is like the road to heat stroke. Keep an eye out for these signs in your dogs to figure out if the heat is getting to them:

  • Heavy panting
  • Tongues hanging out
  • Gums going all bright pink
  • Walking slower and maybe even collapsing.

The problem is that if your dog isn't cooled down by this point, they may succumb to heat stroke, which is a vascular meltdown that disrupts their circulation and can even result in death.

You should be aware that some dogs are more likely to be affected by this heat, owing to their breed or if they are overweight. A recent study discovered that chubby dogs were more prone to heat issues than other squished-nose breeds.

Now, if your dog has a heat-related accident, give them some water or put them in a cool car on the way to the vet - they need to cool down. In addition, all dogs in this situation should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. It's not a possibility; it's a must!

How Can You Protect Them?

In the grand scheme of things, the best defense is to avoid the sun and keep a close eye on your pet's skin. If you notice any suspicious-looking skin spots, consult a veterinarian right away. Remember to keep your furry friend out of the sun during peak hours.

To avoid heat exhaustion or stroke, stay out of the sun and limit your physical activity when it's hot outside. Cooling vests, comfortable cooling beds, water access, and a quick way to relax (like a hose, pond, A/C, or shade) can all help - but nothing beats staying vigilant!

When it comes to avoiding sunburn, it's a good idea to provide some shade and keep water nearby when your pet is outside. Dogs with white fur, a new haircut, or thin coats are extremely sun sensitive. These guys could get sunburned or even develop skin cancer. Additionally, shaving your pet during the summer may actually make them more prone to sunburn because it removes their natural sun protection.

If your pet has red skin or is losing hair, they may be suffering from sunburn. This isn't just about causing discomfort; it could also cause allergies, hot spots, or sensitive post-surgery skin. Fortunately, pet-friendly sunscreen and special equipment are becoming more widely available.

Sunscreen For Dogs

Sunscreen is essential for protecting dogs from sunburn. However, selecting the incorrect sunscreen can result in complications. It is critical to protect your pet's sensitive areas, which include the muzzle, ear tips, nose top, groin, inner legs, and abdomen. But here's the catch: not all sunscreens are suitable for pets. Furry friends, particularly cats and dogs, are expert at licking off lotions and sprays, which can be extremely harmful. So, where can you find dog-friendly sunscreen?

If you're considering using human sunscreen, keep an eye out for ones that are:

  • Fragrance-free
  • Won't stain
  • Contains UVA and UVB barriers at SPF 50.

Dog-specific sunscreens should avoid using zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) in their formulations because these substances can be toxic if dogs ingest them—dogs frequently lick their skin, resulting in accidental sunscreen ingestion. Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide, on the other hand, are safe for your four-legged friends.

How to Apply Sunscreen to Dogs

Patch Test: Before applying sunscreen all over, test a small amount on a small area of your dog's skin to ensure they don't have any allergic reactions.

Focus on Exposed Areas: Concentrate on the spots most exposed to the sun's rays, like the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin around the lips, groin, and areas with light pigmentation.

Avoid Eyes: Be extra careful when applying around your dog's head, making sure to avoid contact with their eyes.

Wait for Absorption: After applying the sunscreen, give it about 10 to 15 minutes to fully absorb before your dog can potentially lick it off.

Timing Matters: Apply the sunscreen about 20 minutes before your dog heads outdoors. This gives the sunscreen time to be effective before exposure.

Reapply as Needed: While your dog is outside, reapply the sunscreen every 4 to 6 hours, and especially after swimming or excessive licking.

Dog Sunscreen Alternatives

Instead of smothering sunscreen all over your dog, consider investing in some protective gear. You can buy dog sun shirts or suits that cover a large portion of their body, so you won't have to worry about them licking off sunscreen. These stylish outfits protect your pet from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

You can even get your dog a sun hat or dog goggles for added sun protection. If you prefer a simpler solution, simply keep your dog out of the direct sunlight when it's extremely hot. Don't forget to provide plenty of shade if you enjoy outdoor swimming or other activities. Keep in mind that all dogs, from puppies to senior citizens, can be affected by heat.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, protecting your pet from the sun comes down to finding that sweet spot. While sunscreen can help, don't forget that pet-friendly options, hanging out in the shade, sporting some cool gear, and choosing the right time are all equally important. By learning what makes your dog tick and employing a variety of tricks, you're preparing them for safe, comfortable, and enjoyable outdoor days. So, go ahead and enjoy the sunshine with your best friend - just do it wisely!

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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