Humans often take precautions to protect themselves from the sun, but should we be doing the same for our dogs? Do dogs need sunscreen? Just like people, canine companions are prone to sunburn and other diseases associated with sun exposure. Taking certain safety measures can lower your dog’s risk of developing serious medical issues, as long as you choose a sunscreen appropriate for dogs.

Sun Risks

Sunburn isn’t just painful for dogs; it can lead to more serious problems, such as skin cancer. Sunburn also exacerbates certain skin conditions, for example, autoimmune disorders and dermatitis, and can cause discomfort around surgery sites. Luckily, a little careful planning can prevent your dog from catching too many UV rays.

Predisposed Dogs

Some dogs are more at risk for sunburn than others. Hairless dog breeds, like the Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, and American Hairless Terrier, need sun protection when they are outside for long periods of time. Dogs with thin coats and dogs with light-pigmented noses and eyelids are also more at risk for sunburn. Even dogs with thick coats of hair may experience hair loss from seasonal shedding or a health condition.

Sunscreen for Dogs

Sunscreen protects dogs from sunburn. It can also cause problems. It’s highly important that you only use types of sunscreen that are specifically intended for use on dogs. They should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), as these ingredients are toxic to dogs. Before using any sunscreen on your pup, including those recommended as safe for canines, it’s a good idea to try a small amount on a small patch of the body to see if your dog has any sensitivity or reaction. Apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before exposure to the sun, and make sure that it does not get into your dog’s eyes and that he does not lick or swallow it.

Sunscreen Alternatives

Rather than lathering sunscreen over your dog’s entire body, consider investing in protective clothing. Several companies make sun shirts for dogs that cover large areas of their bodies, saving you the worry that your pup will lick any sunscreen off. Alternatively, try to keep your dog out of direct sun during the hottest parts of the day, and provide plenty of shade while you are enjoying outdoor activities like swimming. Remember, you can always ask your veterinarian for advice on how best to protect your canine companion from harmful UV exposure.

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