Friday, January 19, 2018

Dogs Need Sunscreen, Too

July 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


dogs need sunscreen 1

Dogs love to sunbathe during the warm summer months, lying on their backs, soaking in the sun, with their feet up in the air.

Despite their furry appearance, dogs are at risk of sunburn and skin damage from prolonged sun exposure, just like humans. And just like humans, they should wear sunscreen, says veterinarian Merry Fitzgerald of Lake Grove Fitzgerald Veterinary. She cautions, “Prolonged sun exposure without protection can result in painful sunburns, skin ulcers, and skin diseases.”

Dogs often sport very short haircuts for the summer, but “short coats can expose the skin and put the dogs at risk of sunburn,” Dr. Fitzgerald notes. “Light colored dogs and those with pink or light-colored noses are most in need of sunscreen or sunblock. Dogs with thin, very short, or missing fur are particularly sensitive to the sun.”

Sunscreen should be applied to various sun-sensitive areas such as the tips of the ears, the skin around the lips, nose, belly, and groin areas. Dr. Fitzgerald adds, “Dogs with black noses should have sunscreen applied to the sensitive skin at the point where the skin on the muzzle meets the wet nose leather.”

Make sure to exercise caution if you are using a spray — don’t get any in the dog’s eyes. If your dog has sensitive skin, Dr. Fitzgerald recommends applying a small amount of the sunscreen first and watching for any type of allergic reaction before applying it to a larger or more sensitive area.

When choosing a sunscreen, look for one specially created for dogs. Dr. Fitzgerald warns that human sunscreens can be toxic to canines if ingested, especially those containing zinc oxide. Watch out for licking — though pet-specific products are usually non-toxic, “if the dog licks it off, it will decrease the effectiveness and need to be reapplied more frequently,” she advises.

Look for protective ingredients including ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, homosalate, and benzophenone-3. “The sunscreen should be fragrance-free, non-staining, and contain UVA and UVB barriers similar to SPF 15 or SPF 30 for humans,” says Dr. Fitzgerald, whose website is  Because the FDA has not determined SPF values for animals, you won’t see SPF labeling on dog products.



More advice for dogs on boats ‘

WEB+ Merry Fitzgerald, DVM and Margot. Photo by Gay Glazbrook

Merry Fitzgerald, DVM, of Lake Grove Fitzgerald Veterinary, has a 15-foot Key West boat; her dog, Margot, loves to swim.  She shares her advice for boaters who bring their dogs along:

Melissa R. Walsh: Should dogs wear protective clothing?

Merry Fitzgerald, DVM: If dogs are going to be in the sun, vests or jackets made from reflective material can deflect a lot of the heat and sun’s rays.


MW: How long is too long for a dog to stay out in the sun?

MF: Sun exposure is not recommended between 10 am and 4 pm during the summer, especially on the water. Sunscreen should be re-applied every 4-6 hours during this time of day. Waterproof sun protection creams are more advantageous as you won’t need to reapply whenever your dog gets in the water.

MW: Like humans, can dogs get sunburned?

MF: Yes.


MW: Do you have any advice for dogs that are out on a boat?

MF: Dogs on boats should have access to shaded areas, plenty of fresh water, and wear flotation devices or life preserver-type vests while on board. Even strong, enthusiastic swimmers can get into trouble in rough water. 


Andrea Riley and Alex Reivitis, founders of Sunscreen for Life (, a non-profit foundation in Los Angeles, make it their mission to educate future generations on the importance of sun safety. Along with their efforts to promote proper sunscreen use for humans, they tell us that our canine friends should be practicing sun safety, too.

Melissa R. Walsh: Should dogs on boats wear sunscreen?

Alex and Andrea: Interestingly, dogs should wear sunscreen or protective clothing, but it is a bit more dependent on their type of coat. Shorter hair/thinner coats would more likely require sun protection than thicker, darker hair. Pale noses are more likely to accrue sun damage than black noses. Some baby sunscreens are safe to use on pups, but sunscreens with zinc should be avoided as it can be toxic if ingested. If your furry friend likes to chill on his back, you want to make sure to put sunscreen on his lower belly as the hair there tends to be sparser.

[Joint email response from Andrea Riley and Alex Reivitis]


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