Does Your Dog Need to Wear Sunscreen This Summer?

Here's why some breeds are prone to burns, according to veterinary experts.

It's so tempting to spend lots of time outdoors with your dog when the sun is shining, but if you let him go out without putting sunscreen on him, your pup could come home with a painful sunburn or develop an even more serious skin condition like melanoma. Here's why wearing sunscreen when he's not in the shade is vitally important to your pup's well-being.

Protect your dog as you would protect yourself.

Fido is just as susceptible to sun damage as you are, so follow the Centers for Disease Control and Protection guidelines by applying sunscreen—to your dog's body and yourself—no more than 30 minutes before leaving home. Another important protocol that is even more effective than wearing sunscreen: Avoid being outdoors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is usually the hottest part of the day and the time when the sun is most harmful.

A dog's physical makeup could make him more or less at risk than others.

Some dogs are more prone to sun damage than others. "If a dog has a thick or dark coat, he or she is more protected from the sun than a dog that is less hairy or has a lighter coat," says Jennifer Frione, MD, a veterinarian at Lakeside Animal Hospital in Plantation, Florida. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), hairless breeds, such as the Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, and American Hairless Terrier, are most in need of protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Other at-risk dogs include those with white or thin coats or light-pigmented noses and eyelids such as Collies, Australian Shepherds, Bulldogs, and any breed with light or white pigment on their ears or near their nose.

brown dog at the beach summer time
Margarita Monge Ortega

You may not realize how much sun he's getting.

If your pet likes to lie down on his back in the sun for hours either on a patio or on a light surface like sand or concrete, he could get burned. In this instance, where should you spray him with sunscreen? The answer is on the most vulnerable areas of his physique, including the bridge of his nose, the tips of his ears, and around his lips, groin, and belly. Reapply as needed, such as when he gets wet at the beach. Before spraying him, test the sunscreen on a small patch of skin to be sure it doesn't cause an allergic reaction.

Using the right product is all-important.

Don't think you'll just share a bottle of sunscreen with your pet; instead, use a product on him that is veterinarian-approved and formulated for dogs. Read labels carefully—don't use any sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or PABA, which the AKC deems toxic to animals. Look for products that are waterproof, unscented, and SPF30 or higher. Some of Dr. Frione's favorites: My Dog Nose It ($12.94, and Epi-Pet Sun Protector Skin Treatment Spray ($17.95,

He may need to be monitored.

Some dogs will try to lick off the sunscreen you just applied. Stop that immediately—if ingested, it could cause harm. Stay with him until all the sunscreen has been absorbed into his skin, which will take about 15 minutes.

He could develop more than just a sunburn.

According to Dr. Frione, "A dog could develop other sun-related conditions including cancer like melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and tumors." Dogs can also develop eye conditions like retinal damage if they stare at the sun for too long, and their paw pads can get burned from walking on a hot pavement.

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