On the hottest days, we often think about whether dogs have enough water, but do we ever think about whether dogs could use or need sunscreen? I know the thought hadn't crossed mine until recently. However, it stands to reason that if dogs have skin, they can get sunburned, especially depending on the kind of fur they have. If you're considering lathering up your dog before you head to the beach, you'll want to know if sunscreen is safe for dogs.
Certain sunscreens are safe for dogs, but sunscreen with zinc oxide is very much not safe to use on your canine friend. Millie Rosales, a doctor of veterinary medicine at Miami Veterinary Dermatology, told PetMD "that a sunburned dog can suffer from red or inflamed skin that becomes irritated and painful." And what a terrible thing that your dog can't even verbalize that that's what they're feeling! To keep your dog from experiencing the pain of a sunburn, it's time to stock up on sunscreen for them.
There is sunscreen that is made specifically for dogs without zinc oxide, because the chemical is toxic to dogs if they ingest it, according to PetMD. The site explained, "If ingested, [zinc oxide] can damage your dog's delicate red blood cells, causing them to explode." Which of course, is as terrible as it sounds.
Dr. Rosales also said that if dogs are going to be outside at peak sun times, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., dogs should have sunscreen reapplied to sensitive and vulnerable areas such as "the nose, around the lips, tips of the ears, the groin, and the belly," throughout the day.
Dog expert Cesar Millan echoed Dr. Rosales and on his website explained that you should take precautions before putting sunscreen on your dog, even if it is formulated for dogs. He suggested applying a test area to ensure your dog won't have an allergic reaction to the sunscreen. Second, he recommended only applying sunscreen to exposed areas. And finally, Millan suggested not shaving your long-haired dog's fur for the summer, because "that hair is actually protecting their skin from UV rays." Your dog might be hot, but he will be protected from skin cancer!
Of course, not all dogs are equally susceptible to the sun's rays. Those dogs with lots of thick hair will be less likely to have skin damage or develop skin cancer because their hair is protecting them. If your dog is the type to spend all day outside, then you know he really needs sunscreen to protect from the elements. Dogs Naturally also explained that all dogs need a shady place to hide under throughout the day. Finally, if your dog has a bald spot, make sure that gets a regular dose of sunscreen.
Rover's Daily Treat reported that there are several breeds that are particularly susceptible to sunburns, so if you live in Southern California and go running on the beach every day, you'll want to be extra mindful of how much sun exposure they're getting. Staffordshire terriers, boxers, bull terriers, pitbulls, and shorthaired pointers are the dog breeds with the highest susceptibility to skin damage.
If you're wondering whether your dog has a sunburn, look out for these signs, according to Daily Treat: "red skin that is tender to the touch," hair loss, itchiness, or dry and cracked skin around the ears.
And how, exactly, are you going to get sunscreen onto a big furry dog? Thankfully, the dog sunscreen makers thought of that and sell options in sprays, sticks, creams, and wipes.