Dogs need sunscreen just like humans do. Even though canine skin may be covered in fluffy fur, the sun’s sneaky UV rays can still cause damage—the sun doesn’t care what species you are! Banfield Pet Hospitals tells us dogs can develop harmful (and painful) conditions like skin cancer and reddened, peeling skin. The National Canine Cancer Foundation says one type of cancer found in dogs, squamous cell carcinoma, is associated with prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation (aka, sunshine). Applying dog sunscreen is crucial to protecting your pup—and the best dog sunscreens are all listed below.
Dog breeds most susceptible to UV damage
First, a quick note about the breeds that are super susceptible to UV damage. Hairless, short-coated, thin-haired and unpigmented dogs, regardless of breed, are most at risk. Think: hairless Xoloitzcuintlis, short-coated Whippets and white-hued French bulldogs. The American Kennel Club says any dogs with light-colored noses, ears or eyelids are at greater risk for sun damage, no matter their breed. Plus, if your dog likes to lay in the sun belly up, this exposes a lot of vulnerable skin, even in the furriest breed. Other breeds to watch closely and slather with sunscreen include Dalmatians, collies, Australian sheepdogs, bulldogs, boxers, German shorthaired pointers and pit bulls.
Conditions that might make your dog susceptible to UV damage
Beyond hair length and pigmentation, there are some conditions that can make your dog’s skin more delicate. If your dog recently had surgery that required your vet to shave a small area of your dog’s body, direct sunlight can be particularly damaging. Owners with canines who have been diagnosed with certain health or skin issues (like dermatitis) should take extra care when outdoors for extended periods of time.
What kind of sunscreen do dogs need?
Be sure you’re using sunscreen specifically formulated for canines! Human sunscreen is not healthy for dogs, especially because they lick themselves and can easily ingest harmful ingredients. Chemicals like zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) can cause severe stomach issues in dogs.
The best dog sunscreens are free of fragrances or artificial coloring. They protect your pup’s skin from UVA and UVB rays. Ideally, they are waterproof and have an SPF of 30 or higher. SPF 15 is an OK alternative.
How to apply sunscreen to your dog
Similar to bath time, applying sunscreen to your dog takes patience and practice. Similar to humans, sunscreen should be applied at least 15 to 20 minutes before heading outside. It’s always a good idea to do a patch test on your dog’s skin before applying fully. The ASPCA warns that even if a product is made for dogs, they can still have an allergic or negative reaction to a new substance. If possible, test a small spot at least 24 hours before you plan on applying more. Anything resembling a rash or causes your dog to itch should be rinsed off and exchanged for a different product.
As you apply, focus on the nose, ears, belly and groin area (and anywhere else your pet’s skin is particularly exposed—which will vary based on breed). Steer clear of the eyes! Apply sunscreen every three to six hours when outdoors for longer periods of time. If your dog is a swimmer (or likes to roll around in puddles), dry them off and reapply afterwards. Spray sunscreens can be applied directly to your dog’s body, but spray onto your hand first to apply manually to the ears and nose, so your dog doesn’t inhale any of the product. Simply brush through after spraying on the coat for fuller coverage.
If applying sunscreen to your dog is impossible, avoid going on walks or scheduling playtime when the sun is at its highest points. This might be unavoidable but try! Beyond skin damage—and even on cloudy days—dogs can suffer from heat stroke. Provide them with ample water and shade when you’re out and about on hot, sunny days.
The 6 best dog sunscreens of 2021
1 Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray
According to Epi-Pet’s website, this product is the “only pet sunscreen that meets the FDA guidelines for ingredient stability.” Not only can you spray it for easy application, but it’s formulated to condition lengthy coats.
2. My Dog Nose It! Sun Protection Balm
Best Bare Essentials
This is a paraben-free sunscreen made with natural ingredients like coconut oil and carnauba wax. Not only does it protect the nose and ears from UVA and UVB rays, but it also moisturizes! Perfect for dogs who don’t need full body coverage—just the bare essentials.
3. Petkin Doggy Sunstick
Best for Adventures
This stick of sunscreen makes it super simple to apply while outdoors hiking, playing, biking or participating in any activity that requires an on-the-go style application. Huge bonus: It’s eco-friendly and veterinarian-approved.
4. Warren London Dog Sunscreen with Aloe Vera Moisturizer
Best for Sensitive Skin
Full of soothing aloe vera, this product is great to use both before and after sun exposure. It can prevent dog skin from drying out after being in heat and sunshine.
5. Beach & Dog Co Canine Sunscreen
Best for Beach Bum
Another sunscreen developed with all-natural ingredients like beeswax and bentonite clay, this product also protects from salt damage. This is good news for pups who love salty ocean water! (Though the balm is currently unavailable on Amazon and sold out on the Beach & Dog Co. website, the company does offer the same product in a stick for easy application.)
6. Emmy's Best Dog Sun Skin Protector Spray
Best Non-Aerosol Spray
This unique spray is non-aerosol, which means it’s less likely your dog will inhale chemicals and it’s better for the environment. Emmy’s is also one of Amazon’s Choices—along with Epi-Pet—and has conditioning ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter.
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