Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Does My Dog Need Sunscreen? Facts & Care Guide

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

dog's nose

Whether we’re heading to the beach, off to the park, or going for a hike, we know that during the spring and summer, putting on sunscreen before we go out is non-negotiable. Since one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, you can never be too safe.1 But when was the last time you thought about applying sunscreen to your dog?

Being sun smart extends to our furry family members, too. It’s spending just as much time outside in the sun as you and needs some sun protection to keep it safe. Dogs can get sunburns and can benefit from wearing sunscreen, especially if they are light-colored or hairless. Keep reading to learn what dogs need sunscreen and when and where you should apply it.

Divider 5

Can Dogs Get a Sunburn?

Yes, just like humans, dogs can get sunburned if they spend too much time outside. And, just like us, they can get a burn anywhere on their body. However, the areas of their skin covered by thin hair or none at all are more susceptible to the effects of sunlight.

dalmatian dog on the beach
Image Credit: Yulia YasPe, Shutterstock

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen?

Yes, putting sunscreen on your pup when you spend much time outside is essential. If you’ll be outdoors during the peak times of sun exposure (typically 10 am to 4 pm), you should apply sunscreen to yourself and your pup. It’s crucial to get protection for your dog if it has light skin or white fur or hair. Dogs can get certain types of cancer after too much sun exposure. The types most associated with too much time in the sun include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Malignant melanomas
  • Hemangiomas
  • Hemangiosarcomas

Are Some Dogs More Susceptible to Sunburns?

Yes, certain dogs may be more likely to get burned. These include:

  • White dogs with short coats, like Dalmatians, French Bulldogs, and Boxers
  • Hairless dog breeds, like the Chinese Crested and Xoloitzcuintli
  • Dogs with hair loss

If your pooch doesn’t fall into the above categories, that doesn’t mean it won’t get sunburned. Any dog, regardless of breed, coat length, coat color, or health status, can get burned after sun exposure.

dalmatian dog on seashore
Image Credit: Jodie Louise, Pexels

What Sunscreen Is the Best for Dogs?

The best sunscreen to use on your dog is made specifically for canines. These products are formulated for dogs and won’t pose any potential health risks. The main issue with human sunscreens is that they contain zinc oxide and a group of chemicals known as salicylates. These two ingredients can cause severe gastrointestinal upset if your dog eats them.

We like Petkin’s SPF 15 Doggy Sun Stick. It has a non-greasy and non-sticky formula in an easy-to-use stick to make sunscreen application easier.

How Can I Apply Sunscreen?

Before slathering your pup’s sensitive areas in sunscreen, test a small area on its body to make sure it won’t have a reaction.

The most important areas to apply sunscreen on your pup are the nose, around the lips, ear tips, groin, and belly. Don’t forget that it’s not good enough to put it on at once. If you’re outside the entire day, you’ll need to keep re-applying. Hopkins Medicine suggests re-applying every two hours, especially if you’ve been swimming. The same rule can apply to your pup.

What Other Things Can I Do To Keep My Dog Safe in the Sun?

Lagotto Romagnolo dog standing in the yard on a sunny day
Image Credit: Jne Valokuvaus, Shutterstock

Putting sunscreen on your pup isn’t enough; you must use your sun smarts outside to keep your pup safe. Dogs, especially those that are very young and old, can develop heat stroke, so you need to be doing your best to ensure your pet’s safety. Here are some things to consider:

  • Provide access to fresh, clean water at all times.
  • Be mindful of the temperature of the ground. Your dog isn’t wearing shoes to protect its paws, so it’s easy to get burned on hot asphalt.
  • Spend some time in the shade while enjoying outdoor activities like swimming or hiking.
  • Avoid going outside during the sun’s peak hours if you can. Stay indoors as much as you can between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Invest in bodysuits, shirts, or hats with UV protection to help prevent sunburns. You can even find dog goggles to protect their eyes.

Divider 5Final Thoughts

Though putting sunscreen on your pup might seem strange, it is highly recommended to do so if you’ll be outside during the hottest part of the day. It’s best to avoid being outdoors between 10 AM and 4 PM, if possible. Instead of pouring sunscreen all over your dog as you might with your own body, focus on the spots that are most susceptible to burns.

If your pup has developed a sunburn, check out our blog on how to treat it.

Featured Image Credit: PICNIC-Foto-Soest, Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database