Kingsbrook Animal Hospital's Blog: Does my dog need sunblock?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Does my dog need sunblock?

 Summer is finally here and you know what that means- SURF, SAND, and SUNscreen! Yes, even for your pets! Like humans, pets are susceptible to and can suffer from sun damage due to exposure and need protection from those harsh rays. Without proper precautions, your pet is at risk for changes in skin color or nails, sunburn, sun rash, and even tumors. Dogs and cats with pigmented skin or thick hair coats are usually less susceptible to UV radiation because their coats act as a protective barrier, while those with thinner hair coats or areas with less pigmentation are more susceptible.  Areas that are particularly sensitive to sun exposure and sunburn include muzzle, tips of ears and bare bellies - especially in breeds such as Pit Bulls, Boxers, Whippets, Dalmatians and Bull Terriers. Surprising, thinly haired bellies are commonly sun-burned because the sun reflects off the concrete and many dogs also enjoy sunbathing belly-side up. Sphinx (a hairless kitty) and especially cats with white ears/noses are the ones commonly seen with solar damage among our feline friends.  Also, don’t forget pets who have recently been clipped either for cooler summer hairdos, for surgical preparation or treatment of wounds/skin problems, are also at increased risk for sunburn. 

But not to fret! There are ways that you can safely protect your fur-kids during those hot summer months in Frederick, Maryland.  The most common sun protectant is sunscreen. It’s important to look for a sunscreen specifically designed for pets as many human sunscreens can be toxic if ingested.  Baby sunscreen can be used; however it is important to speak with your veterinarian prior to use. Products containing ingredients such as zinc or titanium dioxide should specifically be avoided. There are some pet-specific products on the market, but the only FDA approved sunscreen for dogs (and horses) is called “Epi-Pet Sun Protector”. It also has properties to condition the skin while your dogs are out and about.   There is no current FDA approved sunscreen for cats and is important to note that Epi-Pet should not be used on cats because the breakdown product is toxic if ingested. For cats, it is also important to stay away from anything with Octyl Salicylate, homosalate, and ethylhexyl salicylate. Titanium dioxide is ok for cat ear tips, but again, toxic if ingested. The good news is Epi-Pet is currently working on a product that will be approved and safe to use for cats.
Sunscreens should be water resistant and have UV/UVB protection comparable to SPF 15 or 30 in humans (SPF values are not allowed to be used on products advertised for pets). Depending on your pet’s size of course, approximately one tablespoon per exposed body area is recommended and sunscreen should be re-applied every 4-6 hours.  Sun damage can happen anytime so it is recommended to use sunscreen year round. Some other options to consider using in conjunction with sunscreen include sun hats, sun suits, avoiding the sun during its strongest hours of the day, and just plain staying in the shade! Also it is important to remember our canine and feline friends are at higher risk for heat stroke in the hot summer months, so be sure to provide plenty of shade and shelter from the heat and fresh water for your pet. 
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet and the sun, please don’t hesitate to contact Kingsbrook Animal Hospital at 301-631-6900.


Miller, H. William, Craig E. Griffin, and Karen L. Campbell, Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology. 7th  Edition.  Saunders, 2012. Print.