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Summer Vet Tip - Use Dog Sunscreen to Avoid Sunburns, Heat Rashes, and Future Skin Cancer Development

Posted by Dr. Roth on July 28, 2022

Wellness Care
What to do if?
Dogs Skin and Coat Featured Image Use Dog Sunscreen to Avoid Sunburns, Heat Rashes, and Future Skin Cancer Development

Summer is the prime time to enjoy the outdoors, sunshine, and warmth. Whether people are heading to the park, off to the beach, hosting backyard barbecues, or off on a hiking adventure, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities. Many pet parents include their dogs in their plans, too.

While sunshine does have its benefits, too much of it can be harmful. Sunscreen helps protect against sunburn, skin damage, and even skin cancer. What many pet parents don’t realize is that their dogs can also experience sunburn and other skin issues from too much sun exposure. Just as they take measures to protect themselves, they can take preventative steps for their canines with dog sunscreen.  

What Is Dog Sunscreen?

Dog sunscreen is similar to sunscreen for humans — it protects a dog’s skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Pet parents should use it on their dogs any time they’re going to be spending more than a few minutes outside. Just as pet parents need to reapply their own sunscreen periodically throughout the day, they should reapply dog sunscreen on their canines for optimal protection.

Benefits of Dog Sunscreen

Sunscreen offers several dog skin protection benefits:

Protects Against Sunburn

Sunburn on dogs looks similar to sunburn on a person. The skin turns pink or red and may be tender to the touch. It may also make the dog itchy.

Some dogs are more susceptible to sunburn than others are, but all dogs can benefit from wearing sunscreen. Similar to sunscreens for humans, dog-specific varieties offer protection against the sun’s UV rays and prevent sunburn from developing. 

Avoids Heat Rashes

Heat rash can develop on dogs that have been in the sun and heat for too long. The skin becomes red, irritated, and sore. Some canines develop boils or sores. Additionally, sun exposure and overheating can increase the risk of heatstroke. 

Dogs with skin folds or that live in more tropical climates (hot and humid) are more vulnerable, but any dog spending too much time outdoors can develop a heat rash. Along with sunscreen, sticking to shady areas and avoiding too much time outdoors can reduce the risk.  

Protects Dogs with Photosensitivity

Photosensitization is when the skin overreacts (or is overly sensitive) to sunlight, and it can occur if a dog ingests certain medications, fungi, or plants. Sun exposure can lead to hives, dermatitis, and skin rashes. In more severe cases, it can cause skin ulcers and necrosis (death of the skin tissue cells). 

Prevents Canine Skin Cancer

Too much sun exposure without skin protection can increase a dog’s risk of developing skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, hemangiosarcoma, and malignant melanoma. Sunscreen’s UV blocking properties keep the skin from absorbing these harmful rays, protecting it from damage and skin cancer. 

Maintain Overall Skin Health

In addition to protecting a dog from sunburn and other issues, many sunscreens have other ingredients that nourish a dog’s skin and coat. In other words, they keep a dog’s skin safe, healthy, and looking great. 

Human Sunscreen Vs. Dog Skin Protection

While human sunscreen and dog sunscreen provide similar protection, they are not interchangeable. Many sunscreens for humans contain ingredients such as zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs. Artificial fragrances in some sunscreens can also harm a dog’s health. 

Many human sunscreens are aerosol sprays. Along with possibly containing the harmful ingredients above, these sprays may also cause problems if a dog inhales them. Pet parents should always choose brands formulated specifically for canines to avoid potential issues.

What’s the Best Type of Sunscreen for Dog Skin Care?

There are many options when it comes to dog sunscreen. Some come in spray bottles, while others are creams. Sunscreen creams allow for more accurate and thorough coverage of areas such as the nose and ears. Pet parents also don’t have to worry about their dog inhaling anything or accidentally getting the spray in the canine’s eyes. The sunscreen they choose should have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. 

How and Where to Apply Sunscreen

One of the first things a pet parent should do is test a new sunscreen on a small area of their dog’s body to ensure there are no adverse skin reactions. If everything looks good, the pet parent should then apply the sunscreen to all areas of their canine’s body that need protection, including:

  • The nose

  • The tips of the ears

  • The belly

  • The inside of the back legs

  • Any other exposed areas that may be at risk of getting sunburned

Pet parents should rub the sunscreen into their dog’s skin (taking care to avoid the eyes) and wait at least 15 minutes before going outside to give it time to absorb into the skin. They should also keep their dog from trying to lick it off.

While outdoors, pet parents should reapply sunscreen every few hours and after their dogs go swimming. 

Additional Tips to Keep Dogs Safe When Outdoors

Along with applying sunscreen, pet parents can take several other steps to protect their dogs from sunburn, overheating, and heatstroke:

  • Take frequent breaks in the shade

  • Provide plenty of water

  • Avoid spending too much time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is when the sun is strongest

  • Have their dog wear protective clothing, such as a UPF shirt and sunglasses

  • Keep an eye out for signs of heat-related issues, including excessive panting, drooling, rapid heart rate, lethargy, disorientation, and collapse

Summer Dog Care: Protect Skin Health with Sunscreen 

Humans aren’t the only ones who require protection from the sun. Dog sunscreen can help keep dogs safe, allowing them to enjoy the summer season outdoors with their pet parents. Pet parents should always use dog-specific sunscreen, apply it before going outdoors, and reapply it often.

If pet parents do notice signs of sunburn, dog skin rash, or other skin issues after spending time outdoors, they should seek advice from a vet right away. Fuzzy’s team of vets is available 24/7 via our Live Vet Chat. As a Fuzzy member, a pet parent can send images of their dog’s skin for professional advice any time, day or night. 

For more dog skin care or other health advice or to become a member, pet parents can contact Fuzzy any time.

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