Skin requires daily protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Protection is necessary year-round as the sun’s rays pose a continuous risk. There are many products available that offer varying levels of SPF sun-protection for every part of the body–from head to toes. But, did you ever take into consideration that your fur baby may also need protection from the sun?
Dogs and humans have more in common than just companionship. Like some humans, dogs enjoy sunbathing. However, their coat of fur does not protect them from sun damage. Believe it or not, dogs can get sunburned.
This is especially true for breeds with light-colored pigmentation and light-colored fur on the nose, ears, skin around the eyes, and back. Other breeds with shorn fur during the warmer months may also be vulnerable. An unexpected area on your pooch that may be prone to sunburn is the belly–which is often hairless–increasing the risk of sunburn.
Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun affects both humans and dogs–increasing the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Causes may vary, but too much sun exposure is a factor, and there isn’t one type of skin cancer for canines. Moreover, no single breed is more susceptible to skin cancer than another because there are multiple variables at play.
There are a few steps a pet-parent can take to lower their pooch’s risk.
- Plan accordingly. The American Skin Association stresses the importance of taking appropriate precautions or avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.–when the sun’s rays are the strongest–to guard against damage. This advice applies to both humans and their canine companions.
Keeping your dog indoors during this time may not be feasible for everyone. In that case, here are several options you may want to consider, to help protect your fur-baby from the sun:
- Provide a shaded area to lie in, through a covered porch, a doghouse, an umbrella, or a shade tree.
- Use a pet-safe waterproof sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 or a sunblock containing zinc oxide.
- If your dog will allow it, there is dog-specific protective clothing and accessories e.g., hats, visors, and sunglasses for those long walks or runs, available at online retailers or select pet supply stores.
- Last but not least, sunscreen or sunblock specially formulated for dogs.
A word about topical sun-protection for dogs. What’s good for humans, can be toxic to pets. To be safe, use pet-approved sunscreen or sunblock. Avoid sunscreens formulated for humans unless your veterinarian has confirmed it is okay for pet use.
And finally, just like sunscreen usage for humans, pet-approved sunscreens need to be applied regularly, especially after swimming or perspiring to be effective. Be sure to follow package directions.
The most important thing you can do to help your dog avoid skin cancer is to familiarize yourself with all your dog’s lumps, bumps, and rashes, and consult a veterinarian licensed through the Veterinarian Medical Board of California if you notice anything suspicious.