Dr. Stacey, help! Does my doggie need to wear sunscreen?

Pet Health Alert in the Comox Valley

Dr. Stacey: Whether we’re headed to Comox Lake, taking the kids to the field, or simply heading out to run errands, we know that during the summer months wearing sunscreen is key to our health and safety. 

But what about our doggies – do they need sunscreen too? 

This might come as a surprise, but the answer is yes. Along with providing our dogs with proper shade, fresh air, and hydration during the warmer months, sunscreen should become part of your routine. 

Dogs can get sunburns, too! 

Much like us, our four-legged friends can be harmed by the sun’s harmful UV rays. Red, inflamed, ouchy skin, and even hair loss can all result from too much exposure. We even need to be cognicent of the common types of skin cancer in dogs that are associated with sun exposure – like squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanomas, hemangiomas, or hemangiosarcomas.

How to protect your doggie
Ideally, pet parents should find a canine specific sunscreen – these have no health risks to dogs. But if doggie sunscreen isn’t an option, you can buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen for babies and children with an SPF of 15 or higher. Please be sure to read the label on baby sunscreen before applying it - since dogs may lick their skin and accidentally ingest it. Pet owners will want to choose a non-scented product without zinc oxide – the ingestion of this can lead to hemolytic anemia. Please also avoid para-aminobenzoic acid (also known as PABA) as an ingredient. This could also be toxic if ingested. 

To reiterate, the following ingredients in sunscreens are toxic to dogs:
-    zinc oxide
-    para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

 Test a small patch on their belly first to check for an allergic reaction or sensitivity, and avoid getting sunscreen into their eyes. 

Just like you do with your babes – reapply often, especially during peak sun exposure hours (10AM-4PM). Gone swimming? Don’t forget to reapply once more!

Additional Sun and Heat Protection for Dogs

If your doggie must be outdoors during the peak sunshine times, pet parents can consider accessories like bodysuits, shirts, and hats with ultraviolet protection, in addition to sunscreen to prevent sunburns. Dog goggles ‘aka DOGGLES’ can also be used to protect your pet’s peepers.
Don’t forget - dogs can also get heat stroke. Please be certain that your dog has ample access to shade, water, and a comfortable environment in the warmer months.

Although adding sunscreen to your dog’s summer arsenal, pet owners should still be aware of the risks associated with excessive sun exposure.

Every Dog Has Their Day – Keep ‘em safe on the summer ones!  
From the desk of Dr. Stacey