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Do dogs need sunscreen?

Do dogs need sunscreen?

Hey there, fellow pet enthusiasts! Ever wondered if our furry friends need a little dab of sunscreen before they venture out into the wild world of sunshine? Well, picture this: you're a dog, your coat might be your pride and joy, but it's not exactly a built-in umbrella. So, just like us humans, some pups could use a smidge of that SPF magic to keep their skin cool and comfortable under the blazing sun. Let's dive into the colorful world of doggy sun protection and see how our four-legged pals can strut their stuff without getting that awkward sunburned look!

Cute happy dog playing with a stick Dog playing in the park. dog sun stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Dangers of too much sun exposure

Just like humans, excessive sun exposure can pose serious dangers to our canine companions. Prolonged time in the sun can lead to painful sunburn, especially on areas with thin fur or exposed skin. Sunburn can cause discomfort, redness, and even peeling. Moreover, repeated sunburns over time may contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer in dogs. Dogs can also suffer from heatstroke if exposed to high temperatures and intense sunlight, leading to symptoms like excessive panting, lethargy, and even collapse. It's vital to provide shade, limit outdoor activities during peak hours, and use pet-safe sunscreen to ensure our furry friends are protected from the harmful effects of too much sun.

Things to consider before lathering your dog in sunscreen

Some dogs may need sunscreen, especially those with light-colored or thin fur, exposed skin, or specific skin conditions. Just like humans, dogs can be susceptible to sunburn, which can lead to pain, discomfort, and potential long-term skin damage. Here are a few factors to consider:

Skin Type

Dogs with thin fur, pink or light-colored skin, and areas with less fur coverage (such as the nose, ears, belly, and groin) are more prone to sunburn.


Breeds with short coats, light-colored coats, and less hair coverage on certain body parts are at a higher risk of sunburn. 

Time of Day

Sunburn is more likely to occur during peak sunlight hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Altitude and Location: Dogs at higher altitudes or in areas with stronger sunlight are at an increased risk of sunburn.

Skin Conditions

Some dogs have skin conditions that make them more susceptible to sunburn. Additionally, dogs that have had surgical procedures may have areas of sensitive skin that need protection.

If your dog falls into any of these categories, it's a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before using sunscreen. Not all human sunscreens are safe for dogs, as they might contain ingredients that are toxic when ingested through licking. Look for a pet-specific sunscreen with ingredients that are safe for dogs. Apply the sunscreen to the areas of your dog's skin that are most exposed to the sun, like the nose, ears, and belly.

dog siesta at park jack russell dog relaxing and resting on grass meadow at the park outdoors and outside on summer vacation holidays dog sun stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Dog breeds that may need sunscreen

To protect ourselves, we lather up in sunscreen before spending time outdoors for an extended period of time. But our dogs have fur, do they also need a layer of sunscreen? According to veterinarian Dr. Richard Goldstein, the answer is yes! A quote he made to PetMd stated, “It’s actually very important to put sunscreen on dogs, especially those with light skin and white fur or hair. A dog’s skin can be damaged by the sun just like our own, so they require the same protection against the development of sunburn and skin cancer.”

While most dogs have their own built-in fur coat protection, some breeds are a tad more sensitive to the sun's powerful rays. These sun-kissed pups might appreciate a little extra TLC in the form of sunscreen. Take a gander at the lighter-coated breeds, like the elegant Dalmatians, the playful Boxers, and the cool-as-a-cucumber Bull Terriers. These fur babies have less natural sun-blocking armor, especially on areas like their ears, noses, and bellies. And hey, don't forget about those lovely hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested or the Peruvian Inca Orchid – they're practically begging for a sunscreen rubdown! Just remember, these breeds are like the sunbathers of the canine world, so a little sunscreen love can go a long way in making sure their outdoor adventures stay sunburn-free and full of tail-wagging fun. To get a better idea of if your dog needs sunscreen, here’s a list of 10 dog breeds that could benefit from some SPF:

  1. Dalmatian: Known for their distinctive black or liver spotted coat, Dalmatians have areas of light skin that are prone to sunburn.
  2. Boxer: With their short coat and minimal fur on their belly, Boxers can be vulnerable to sunburn, especially during outdoor playtime.
  3. Bull Terrier: These dogs have a short, thin coat and often have exposed skin on their ears, making them susceptible to sunburn.
  4. Chinese Crested: This hairless breed is highly sensitive to the sun due to lack of fur. Sunscreen is essential for their delicate skin.
  5. Peruvian Inca Orchid: Another hairless breed, this one hails from Peru and requires sun protection to prevent skin damage.
  6. American & Mexican Hairless Terriers: As the name suggests, this breed is hairless and needs sunscreen to safeguard their skin during outdoor activities.
  7. Italian Greyhound: With their short coat and thin skin, Italian Greyhounds should be protected from excessive sun exposure.
  8. Whippet: Similar to Italian Greyhounds, Whippets have thin coats and sensitive skin that may need extra protection from the sun.
  9. Vizsla: This breed's short coat and light skin make them susceptible to sunburn, particularly on their ears and nose.
  10. Pit Bull: Many Pit Bull variants have short fur and sensitive skin, making them candidates for sunscreen, especially on areas with less fur coverage.

Now you may be thinking, sure it makes sense that a short-haired, light coloured dog would need sunscreen but how would sunscreen help my hairy husky? For darker, hairier dogs it’s not so much their general body that needs protection but certain, more exposed areas. If a dog is outdoors during peak sun hours (around 11am-5pm), sunscreen should be applied to sensitive areas like the nose, around the lips, tips of the ears, the groin, and the belly.

Husky with white and red wool enjoying the walk. Dog in collar on autumn meadow. Leisure at nature. Portrait Husky with white and red wool enjoying the walk. Dog in collar on autumn meadow. Leisure at nature. Portrait dog sun stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What type of sunscreen should I use on my dog?

When selecting a sunscreen for your dog, it's important to choose a product that is safe for their skin and won't be harmful if they lick it off. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Pet-Specific Sunscreen

Look for sunscreens that are specifically formulated for pets. These products are designed with ingredients that are safe for dogs, as they are less likely to contain substances that could be toxic if ingested.

SPF Level

Choose a sunscreen with a moderate SPF (Sun Protection Factor). An SPF of 15-30 is generally sufficient for most dogs. Higher SPFs don't necessarily provide significantly better protection.

Fragrance and Dye-Free

Opt for a sunscreen that is free of fragrances and dyes, as these ingredients can irritate your dog's skin.

Physical Sunscreen

Consider using a physical or mineral-based sunscreen that contains ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients create a barrier on the skin that reflects and blocks the sun's rays.


If your dog loves water activities, choose a sunscreen that is water-resistant to ensure it stays effective even when they get wet.

Non-Toxic Ingredients

Avoid sunscreens that contain zinc oxide nanoparticles, as these can be harmful if ingested.

Consult Your Veterinarian

Before using any sunscreen on your dog, it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian. They can recommend a suitable product based on your dog's specific needs and any existing skin conditions.

Patch Test

Before applying sunscreen all over your dog's body, do a patch test on a small area of their skin to make sure they don't have an adverse reaction.

A dog resting in warm sunshine An English Pointer dog sleeps outdoors on tiles, in warm summer sunshine. dog sun stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

How to apply sunscreen on your dog

Applying sunscreen on your dog requires a gentle touch and some patience. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you do it effectively and comfortably for both you and your furry friend:

  1. Choose the Right Sunscreen: Select a pet-safe sunscreen with suitable SPF and ingredients. Consult your veterinarian if you're unsure which product to use.
  2. Test on a Small Area: Before applying sunscreen all over your dog, do a patch test on a small area of their skin to make sure there's no adverse reaction.
  3. Find a Quiet Space: Choose a calm and quiet environment for the application. Your dog will be more comfortable if they're relaxed.
  4. Gently Hold Your Dog: If your dog is cooperative, have them sit or lie down. If they're more wriggly, you might need an extra pair of hands to help keep them still.
  5. Start with Sensitive Areas: Begin with areas that are most prone to sunburn, such as the nose, ears, belly, and any areas with thin fur or exposed skin.
  6. Apply Small Amounts: Take a small amount of sunscreen on your fingers and gently rub it onto your dog's skin. Use a gentle, circular motion to ensure even coverage.
  7. Avoid Eyes and Mouth: Be extremely cautious around your dog's eyes, mouth, and inside their ears. These areas are sensitive and can be easily irritated. You can apply a little petroleum jelly around the eyes to create a protective barrier before applying sunscreen to nearby areas.
  8. Take Breaks: If your dog starts to get restless, take breaks between applying sunscreen to different areas. Offer treats and praise to keep them calm and cooperative.
  9. Reward and Positive Reinforcement: Throughout the process, offer treats, praise, and pets to make the experience positive for your dog.
  10. Allow Time to Dry: Give the sunscreen a few minutes to dry before allowing your dog to move around or groom themselves. This will prevent them from licking it off right away.
  11. Monitor and Reapply: Keep an eye on your dog while they're outside to make sure the sunscreen is staying effective. If they're swimming or rubbing against surfaces, you may need to reapply sunscreen after a certain period.
  12. Gentle Cleanup: After sun exposure, gently clean your dog's skin to remove any sunscreen residue. Use a mild, pet-friendly cleanser.

Remember, patience is key when applying sunscreen to your dog. If your dog becomes stressed or agitated, it's okay to try again later or even on another day. The goal is to make the experience as positive and comfortable as possible for your furry friend.

If you do not feel comfortable applying sunscreen on your dog, there are other options! Bodysuits, shirts, and hats can also help protect your dog and block UV rays. Just make sure that the material is not too thick in order to avoid overheating. 

Should I just keep my dog out of the sun?

Ah, the glorious sun, nature's spotlight on life! Dogs, those perpetually joyous creatures, are no strangers to the benefits of soaking up those sunbeams. It's not just about catching the perfect tan (though their fur might beg to differ). 

Sunlight serves as a natural mood booster, releasing a surge of those feel-good chemicals like serotonin that make tails wag and hearts soar. Plus, let's not forget the essential vitamin D that the sun graciously provides. Just like us, dogs need their dose of this sunshine vitamin to keep those bones strong and that immune system ready to rumble. Additionally, soaking up some sunlight has also been shown to help improve certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, canine lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and thyroiditis.

So, when you see your pup basking in the sun's warm embrace, know that they're not just savoring the moment – they're also reaping the sunny rewards for a healthier, happier tail-wagging life!

couple corgi dog and striped cat sit on a summer sunny meadow in sunglasses glasses fashionable couple corgi dog and striped cat sit on a summer sunny meadow in sunglasses glasses dog sun stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

In conclusion, while many dogs have natural protection from their coats, some with lighter fur or sensitive skin areas can benefit from the use of sunscreen. It's crucial to choose a pet-specific sunscreen with safe ingredients and consult your veterinarian for guidance. Just like us, our canine companions deserve a comfortable and enjoyable time in the sun, and a little sunscreen can go a long way in ensuring their well-being during outdoor adventures.

Weiner dog laying on the beach with sunglasses on and a coconut drink beside them
Weiner dog laying on the beach with sunglasses on and a coconut drink beside them

View Sources

Pet MD. “Can Dogs Get Sunburned?” 2020. 

Yankell, Samuel L., Lakshmi Khemani, and M. M. Dolan. "Sunscreen recovery studies in the Mexican hairless dog." Journal of Investigative Dermatology 55, no. 1 (1970): 31-33.

Koehl, C., and S. Van Boven. "Dog tan ban." Newsweek 126, no. 5 (199

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February 20, 2024
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