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Health & Wellness

Sunscreen safety for dogs

Make sure to avoid products made with zinc.

Like people, our precious pups love a little fun in the sun. But also, just like us, they need a little sun protection to keep them safe and healthy. After all, nothing hinders a game of fetch at the beach like a sunburn. Contrary to potential misconception, fur doesn’t deflect sunlight or act as a natural shield — much like how humans can still get sunburns on their heads. Thus, it’s important to take preventative measures when it comes to outdoor playtime, and this means sunscreen. 

Things to keep in mind

"It's important to protect pets from the effects of the sun," Dr. Jamie Richardson, head of veterinary medicine at Small Door Veterinary, says. Not only are there sunburns to worry about, but other factors (like the dog's breed or where they live) can lend even more risks. "Skin-related cancers are common in light-haired pets, particularly those who live in sunny locations and/or spend a lot of time outside." 

As with people, Dr. Richardson suggests avoiding the sunniest parts of the day, typically between 10 AM and 4 PM, for excessive outdoor play. "You can also use a pet-specific sunscreen to protect areas that are hairless or where the fur is thin," she adds, pointing to areas like the bridge of the nose, temples, elbows and toes. 

What sunscreen is safe for dogs? 

When applying said sunscreen, it’s crucial to be mindful of the type used. “It’s important to note that regular human sunscreen can be toxic for dogs, as they tend to contain zinc, which is poisonous if ingested or used topically in excess,” she explains. 

As a rule of thumb, it’s always best to talk to your vet before introducing your pup to a new product. This way, you can feel confident that the sunscreen is safe for your dog. 

 RELATED: Should my dog wear sunglasses?

How to apply sunscreen to a dog

Most people are probably accustomed to simply lathering on the SPF — but when it comes to applying it to your dog, that's not the way to go. "Test it out on a small part of your dog's body first, and wait for a while to ensure they don't have an adverse reaction," Dr. Richardson suggests. "Run in the sunscreen well, making sure it gets through the fur and absorbs into the skin. Watch your dog and discourage them from licking it off." She also reminds pet parents to reapply sunscreen periodically throughout the day, especially if their dog has been in the water. 

But with sunscreen handy and preventative measures taken, you and your best friend will be in for lots of fun in the sun.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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