Do dogs need sunscreen? We spoke to an animal expert to find out
We all know how important SPF sunscreen is for protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but do you need to protect your dog in the way? We spoke to an expert to find out.
As temperatures rise, dog walkers can rejoice as the ground is no longer muddy and raincoats are swapped for shorts and a t-shirt. The difference in weather is a welcome change for most but also brings some seasonal safety considerations.
Protecting the skin against UV rays is one of these. It's commonplace for us to use sunscreen before heading out on a sunny day, so should we be doing the same to protect our furry friends?
Do dogs even need sunscreen, and is it safe for them? Here at The Recommended, we’ve been on a mission to find out. To help us do this, we have the assistance of an expert to answer questions surrounding the relationship between dogs, sunscreen, and sunburn.
Our dog expert
To help us with our guide to whether dogs should wear sunscreen, we have got the expertise of Alison Frost, Head of Nutrition and Product Development at ProDog Raw, where she helps to keep dogs healthy through nutrition and provides safety advice for pet owners.
Alison has shared with us her top tips on dog skincare and explained if dogs need sunscreen, what breeds need the most protection from the sun and alternative ways to protect your dog from sunburn.
Do dogs need sunscreen?
Dogs, just like humans, can be susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays and, therefore, can benefit from using specially formulated dog sunscreen. While the fur of dogs provides some natural protection, certain breeds and individual dogs with thin or light-coloured fur, or those with exposed skin areas, are more prone to sunburn and sun-related issues.
Alison told us that “not every dog needs sunscreen, but certain breeds, and those with more exposed skin, will. Dogs with white or very thin coats and dogs with light-pigmented noses and eyelids are more at risk for sunburn, so you need to keep them protected! Dogs with very light-coloured noses need sunscreen – black noses are generally fine without; paw and nose balms will do the job just fine!”
In cases where a dog does need sunscreen, you need to make sure it is specially formulated for dogs, as some ingredients in regular sunscreen can be toxic for them. Dog-friendly sunscreens are typically free of certain harmful chemicals and may have additional ingredients to soothe and protect the dog's skin.
Remember that sun protection for dogs involves more than just applying sunscreen. It's also important to provide shaded areas for your dog to rest in when spending time outdoors and to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the peak hours of the day.
What breeds need sunscreen the most?
Although all dogs can be affected by UV rays, some breeds are particularly at risk. This is usually because they have less fur than other breeds or have several exposed skin areas. Here are the most at-risk breeds:
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- Bulldogs: Bulldogs have short coats, light skin, and often wrinkled faces, which makes them prone to sunburn, especially on their noses and around their eyes.
- Dalmatians: Dalmatians have short coats with minimal pigmentation in their skin. This leaves them vulnerable to sunburn, particularly on areas with less fur, such as the nose, ears, and belly.
- Boxers: Boxers have short coats and thin hair, making them more susceptible to sunburn on their ears, nose, and other exposed areas.
- Poodles: Some Poodle varieties, especially those with lighter-coloured or shaved coats, may require sun protection. Their exposed skin areas, such as the face and ears, can be vulnerable to sunburn.
- Light-coloured or hairless breeds: Dogs with light-coloured fur, thin hair, or hairless breeds, such as Chinese Crested or Xoloitzcuintli, have less natural protection against the sun and are at a higher risk of sunburn.
Alison reiterated this and said that even if your dog is not a breed typically prone to sunburn, you still need to look out for them. She told us that “shaved dogs and shorter-haired or hairless dogs need protection if they’re playing or basking in the sun for any length of time. If a dog has been shaved for an operation or due to skin issues, then it will also need sunscreen protection. Don’t forget vulnerable pink bellies too!”
Alison also helped detail which dogs are less at risk. “Most dogs have coats that protect them from the sun’s UV rays which is why double-coated breeds shouldn’t be shaved (namely huskies, retrievers, and German shepherds). Shaving them makes it harder for them to cool off and exposes their skin to the sun. Instead, a good brush alone will do.”
What sunscreen can you use on dogs, and what ingredients should you avoid?
When it comes to choosing the best sunscreen for your dog, you should not be using the same suncream you put on your own skin. Alison explains that human sunscreen has chemicals inside which are toxic for dogs, and they can ingest these as they regularly lick themselves.
She told us that it’s important that you’re careful when choosing sunscreen for your dog, warning that “there’s a myriad of toxic ingredients found in commercial sunscreens that you need to avoid, such as zinc oxide and parabens.”
“These ingredients are high-risk for dogs because they lick their skin and fur, so these toxins can be absorbed into the bloodstream. For this reason, never use sunscreens made for humans on your dog.” If you are unsure whether sunscreen is safe for your dog, then consult your vet or buy sunscreen from them directly.
The best sunscreens for dogs
Taking all of our experts' advice onboard, we’ve put together a short list of some of the best sunscreens for dogs that you can buy online. All of the dog sunscreens we’ve picked provide all-important SPF protection and have all been tested to make sure they’re friendly to your dog’s skin. Here are our top four dog sunscreen recommendations:
Be:sunsafe Dog Sunscreen: This dog sunscreen is SPF15 and is insect repelling, plant-based, and packed with vitamins. It is lick-safe for your dog and is citrus scented and made of ingredients including beeswax, grapeseed oil, shea butter and coconut oil.
Petkin Doggy Sunmist Spray: This sunscreen is SPF15 and easy to apply as it’s sprayed on. It is made using three active ingredients which help to filter and absorb UV rays before they reach the skin. It lasts for two hours and also includes natural moisturisers.
Strangest Heliovet spray: This sunscreen spray offers high protection against UV rays with an SPF50 rating. It is made with green tea, fern-block, and plankton. These 3 natural active ingredients have photoprotective, antioxidant and repairing actions. It is an ideal sunscreen to protect the skin during outdoor activities, especially for dogs with short or white hair.
Filtabac Antibacterial Sunblock Cream: This dog-friendly sunscreen acts as a second skin for your pet and has antibacterial qualities which help protect dogs from infection and sunburn. It has SPF30 protection and is perfect for pets who suffer from skin conditions or dry skin.
How and where to apply sunscreen to your dog
To make sure that the sunscreen you have chosen is safe for your dog, Alison advises doing a quick patch test, “always test your dog-friendly sunscreen on a small spot of your dog’s skin to make sure they don’t have any kind of reaction.”
If they haven’t had a reaction after 30 minutes, then it’s time to start applying it to your dog. “Apply it to any exposed areas, such as their nose, lips, ear tips, and bellies. Avoid getting it in their eyes, and don’t forget to check the temperature of concrete – if it’s too hot, it will hurt their paws regardless of how much sunscreen you put on”, Alison explains.
What alternative ways can you protect your dog from sunburn?
Surprisingly, there are other ways you can protect your dog from sunburn as well as the use of sunscreen. Alison explained some little-known ways that you could also bolster the protection your dog has from UV rays. Her alternatives were heavily based on diet, she said: “Many dog owners will be surprised to learn that whole foods can help to protect dogs against UV radiation by boosting antioxidant levels in the skin.
“Whilst these foods can’t replace sunscreen, they can become an invaluable part of your dog’s diet. Give your dog meals containing lightly steamed greens or colourful berries, as these foods contain antioxidants called carotenoids. Carotenoids contain plant sunscreens and help to protect the skin from UV radiation. Spinach, kale, carrots, collard greens, and broccoli are also great examples of add-ins rich in carotenoids.
Another invaluable consideration? Raw meat. As Alison explained, “Unprocessed raw meat contains high amounts of the amino acid histidine, which helps to protect the skin from molecular damage through the production of urocanic acid. We’re obviously huge advocates for raw feeding, and for good reason! People are often unaware of benefits like this.”
Of course, the most effective sunscreen and protection method is common sense. Be safe and when it’s too hot, head indoors, minimise sun exposure and make sure your dog doesn’t spend too long in it.
Want to read more expert-recommended pet product round-ups? Check out our Pets page for a full list of recommendations, including our list of the best dog beds, the best dog toys and the best dog treats, all recommended by dog experts.
Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.