Sun Protection for Your Pet

Common sense tells us that it is best to keep our pets out of the mid-day sun. But when this is not possible, applying sunscreen is a good option. Your pet could wear protective clothing, but when temperatures soar, this might not be so practical.

Using and applying sunscreen correctly is as important for pets as it is for humans, especially if your pet is thin-haired, hairless, unpigmented or is likely to get sun exposure on its ears and nose. Just like us, dogs and cats can get sunburned, too, and suffer from pain, peeling and skin cancer. Certain breeds can be particularly susceptible including Staffordshire Terriers, Boxers, Bull Terriers, German Shorthaired Pointers and Pit Bulls, to name a few. Any cats that have white ears, eyelids and noses should be protected as well. Severe burns may also cause skin infections.

The risk of using most human sunscreen products is low but ingredients such as zinc oxide can be toxic and cause gastrointestinal problems if ingested. Sunscreens made specifically for pets are your safest choice and can be purchased online and at a few large retail pet stores. They should be fragrance- free, waterproof and block both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF should be 15 or higher. Some of the products available are Doggles Pet Sunscreen (dogs), Virbac Pet Guard Gel with Sunscreen (dogs and cats) and Epi-Pet Sun Protector Sunscreen Spray (dogs).

Look for areas on your pet’s body where bare skin is exposed. Sunscreen comes in a lotion or spray form. Along with the tips of the ears and nose, it can also be used on the abdomen and legs, although there is the possibility that your pet will lick it off. Avoid the eyes and try to keep your pet from inhaling it (if using a spray). Reapply every three to four hours (more frequently if your pet will be in the water) or as directed by your veterinarian.

Discontinue use if your pet experiences a rash or excessive itching. Wash the sunscreen off and contact your veterinarian.