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Home > Dogs > Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? Safety Tips & Facts

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? Safety Tips & Facts

dog sitting on the beach

It can be easy to assume that dogs are protected from sunburn by their fur, but that isn’t always the case. During hot, sunny days, dogs are just as likely as humans to suffer from sunburn and other sun-related diseases if you don’t take steps to protect them. Dog-friendly sunscreen1 and other precautionary measures are the best ways to keep your puppy safe in the sun.


Do All Dogs Get Sunburnt?

Some dogs are more prone to sunburn than others but they’re all at risk when it comes to the potential damage that the sun can cause. Generally, dogs with light-colored, thin, or no fur are the most likely to get sunburn. These breeds include but aren’t limited to:

  • Boxer
  • Dalmatian
  • Greyhound
  • Pitbull

You should pay attention to your long-haired dog too. Not only are they likely to have more trouble staying cool during hotter days, but their thick coat also won’t protect all their skin. The areas around their belly, ears, eyes, nose, and mouths and the tip of their tail can all get sunburned if you’re not careful.

Too much overexposure to the sun can lead to other health issues. Dogs are just as prone to developing skin cancer as we are.

male and famale boxer dog sitting
Image By: Gabor Kormany, Shutterstock

What Sunscreen Should You Use on Your Dog?

Like most things when it comes to taking care of a dog, there are right and wrong ways to do so. Not all sunscreen options available are safe for pets and might even cause vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach ulcers if your dog licks it off their skin.

Usually, the safest option is a sunscreen that’s designed for dogs. A few of the ingredients can still potentially cause problems if your dog eats it, though. Zinc oxide in particular can cause damage to red blood cells if your dog develops zinc toxicity. Sunscreen might also irritate your dog’s skin if they’re sensitive to any of the ingredients.

If you do find a pet-friendly sunscreen, you should still check the ingredients. For the best results, look for a waterproof, SPF-30, unscented option. Remember to test the sunscreen on a small area of your dog’s skin to check for a reaction before you use it all over their body.

Human sunscreen should be avoided. Since they’re not designed for dogs, human sunscreens are more likely to contain toxic ingredients. Keep your human sunscreen far out of your dog’s reach, even while you’re out on a day trip.

close up applying cream on dog's skin
Image By: fetrinka, Shutterstock

How to Treat Your Dog’s Sunburn

Dogs don’t tend to burn as easily as we do, but it’s still important to recognize the symptoms so you can take steps to treat them. Sunburn in dogs has many of the same symptoms:

  • Blisters
  • Dry or cracking skin
  • Hair loss
  • Pink or red skin
  • Tenderness
  • Scaly skin
  • Skin ulcers or infections

Severe sunburn can be painful for dogs. It can also be hard to treat if you can’t tell how severe the burn is. First, consult your veterinarian to determine how severe the burn is and what steps you need to take to treat it. Depending on the severity of your dog’s sunburn, treatment usually involves antibiotics, pain medication, wound cleansing treatment, or topical ointments.

divider-dog paw

Alternative Ways to Protect Your Dog From the Heat and Sun

Sunscreen won’t stop your dog from getting too hot or dehydrated during summer. It also won’t prevent them from getting sunburn if they’re outside for longer than the protection lasts.

To keep your dog as safe as possible during long days outside, you need to take precautions that involve more than just covering them with sunscreen. These alternative options are also good to try if you don’t like the idea of using sunscreen on your dog.

1. Avoid the Hottest Hours

The hottest part of the day can vary depending on where you live, but it’s typically between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. You should take precautions all day during sunny weather, but during these hours, it’s much easier to suffer from heat stroke and sunburn if you’re not careful — that goes for your dog too.

Since your dog has no way of telling you when they’re too hot — they might just lie in a sunny spot all day if they’re allowed — it’s up to you to draw the line. For example, keep your dog inside during the hottest parts of the day.

If you do have to take them outside for a potty break, don’t spend too long outdoors, and try to stick to shady areas.

walking with dog
Image Credit: Piqsels

2. Protective Clothing

Another option is protective clothing that will protect your dog’s sensitive skin from the sun. If your dog is used to wearing clothes, UV-blocking dog clothes are available. Dogs with short fur or no fur at all can benefit from protective clothing the most.

These clothes are usually simple shirts or bodysuits that are designed to negate the effects of UV rays. You can also get hats or goggles for dogs with sensitive eyes. The downside is that protective clothing won’t protect every inch of your dog’s skin. You’ll still need to protect any exposed skin.

3. Provide Water

Sunburn isn’t the only risk when it comes to summer; there’s also heatstroke and dehydration to consider. Your dog should always have access to plenty of clean water, but it’s even more important that you keep their water bowl topped up on hot days.

By keeping their water bowl filled and close at hand, you’ll encourage your dog to drink more during the day. This will keep their hydration levels up and lower the risk of them developing heatstroke.

beagle dog drinking water from a bowl
Image Credit; Przemek Iciak, Shutterstock

4. Sit in the Shade

It’s nice to feel the sun on your skin once in a while, but you should be cautious about how much time you and your dog are spending in the sunlight. If you’re spending the day at the beach or an outdoor market, break up your day with regular stops in shady spots. You’ll still be outside, but at least not in direct sunlight.



No matter what breed they are or if they have fur or not, all dogs are susceptible to developing sunburn if they’re not protected well enough. To keep them safe, you can use pet-friendly sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

Sunscreen isn’t the only precaution that you should take during summer, though. Keep plenty of water nearby, and break up long days in the sun with regular rests in the shade or indoors.

Featured Image Credit: Olesya Kuprina, Shutterstock

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