Dogs Get Sunburn, Too – Best Sunscreen and Sun Care Tips for Dogs and Puppies

Q. – What Kind of Sunscreen Is Right for a Dog? Is Human Sunscreen Bad for Dogs?

Protect your dog from getting sunburn.A. – Dr. Louise Murray, ASPCA: “Zinc is toxic to dogs and can cause GI (gastro-intestinal) upset and life-threatening anemia, so products containing zinc should be avoided. There are pet-specific sunblocks available that are designed to be safer for dogs and cats. If using a human product, choose one made for babies that is fragrance-free, and observe the dog closely until the product has dried.”

A. – Ann Hohenhaus, DVM: “Put a T-shirt on your dog, but that will not cover all the areas of skin at risk for sunburn. Get a sunsuit of sun protective fabric for your dog or just keep your dog inside. For hiking, swimming and other outdoor activities use sunscreen on thinly haired areas, ears and nose.”

Hohenhaus recommends choosing sunscreen for your dog that is safe for babies, SPF > 15, waterproof, and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Q. – What Are Some Sun Care Tips for Dogs?

A. – Dr. Louise Murray, ASPCA: “It is wise to limit sun exposure in pets between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., especially pets at high risk due to thin or light-colored coats.”

A. – Michelle Sahlin, managing director of Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA):
“Dogs are susceptible to sunburn, especially around sensitive areas where fur is thin or skin lacks pigment. Lighter-colored dogs are even more susceptible to injury from the UV rays of the sun. Option 1: Apply sunscreen. When your dog will be outdoors for an extended period of time, apply sunscreen around the ears, nose, groin, and inside legs to prevent exposure. Caution: Some human sunscreens contain PABA, which may be harmful to dogs if injested – a likelihood if your pet licks itself after application. So stick with PABA-free sunscreens. Your veterinarian or favorite pet supply store may also recommend pooch-friendly alternatives.

“Option 2: Provide shade. Dogs instinctively gravitate toward shade to keep cool. You can help by assuring they have ample shade areas to choose from. In the yard, trees and shrubs can provide sun relief. Another alternative is to create shade zones in the yard or on a deck using awnings. A retractable awning creates shade on demand, with the open sides allowing excellent airflow for additional cooling benefits. Even better, awnings can be used to create cool protected areas that owner and best friend can safely share.

“Dogs can be vulnerable to sunburn even when indoors, especially if they prefer to nap near a favorite sunny window or glass patio door. Awnings blocking sun penetration through windows, protecting pets from exposure. In addition, awnings cool the home interior, providing heat relief for you and your dog.”

Sometimes problems secondary to doggie sunburn may arise.Q. – What can I do to prevent problems arising secondary to sun exposure?

A. – Dr. Alison Flynn, DVM, DACVD, Veterinary Dermatologist at Miami Veterinary Specialists:
1. Sunscreen that is safe for children will be safe for pets, there is one sunscreen that has been approved for use in dogs:
2. UV protective clothing:
3. Doggles:
4. Always provide shade for your pet if they are outside for longer than 30 minutes as well as plenty of drinking water.

Q. – What can I do if my pet has a sunburn or skin cancer?

A. – Dr. Alison Flynn, DVM, DACVD, Veterinary Dermatologist at Miami Veterinary Specialists:
1. If the affected area appears red and raised, scaly, wet/crusted, ulcerated, or painful you should take your pet to a veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist to be evaluated. A skin sample/ biopsy may be performed to investigate the underlying cause.
2. There are many treatment options for skin cancer in pets including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, which can be very effective, especially if caught early.
3. There are also medications that may prevent certain pre-cancerous lesions from progressing to cancer if caught early.

Q. – How much sun is too much?

A. – Dr. Alison Flynn, DVM, DACVD, Veterinary Dermatologist at Miami Veterinary Specialists:
“The exact amount of time that can be safely spent in the sun depends on the risk factors above and the ambient temperature. Lightly colored, hairless pets or breeds that are predisposed to skin cancer should spend less than 15 – 30 minutes per day in direct sunlight to minimize risks of sun burn and sun induced skin cancer. Pets with dense hair coats / dark skin and hair may spend more time in the sun, although the risk of heat stroke becomes greater for these pets when ambient temperatures are greater than 90F.”

About the Experts:

Dr. Alison Flynn DVM, DACVD, is a Veterinary Dermatologist at Miami Veterinary Specialists. For more information, visit online at

Ann Hohenhaus, DVM is a staff veterinarian at The Animal Medical Center in New York. For more information, visit online at

Dr. Louise Murray is Director of Medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. For more information, visit

Michelle Sahlin is managing director of Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA). For more information, visit online at


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