Does Your Dog Need Sunscreen?

Too cool for drool.

By now we all know that the UV radiation from the sun is not good for us. I slather sunblock on myself and my kids, slap hats on everybody, and generally look like we just walked out of a beach postcard from 1914. But what about pets?

You’d think all that fur would be nature’s equivalent of a sunblocking surf shirt, but it’s not. Sunlight easily penetrates dog fur, especially if it is light-colored, says the American Animal Hospital Association.

It turns out that a dog’s skin can be prone to the same problems as human skin when it comes to sun exposure: sunburn, and skin cancer. Although the dog’s fur may provide a degree of protection, remember that your dog isn’t actually entirely covered in fur (despite the amount of shedding on your couch right now.) The bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, and areas lacking pigmentation are susceptible to sun damage. Another major area that’s exposed is the dog’s belly, which has less fur, but is exposed to sun that reflects off sidewalks.

Also, if your dog has any exposed areas from being shaved or from illness or medical treatment, that skin is vulnerable. Sunburn can also exacerbate other skin problems like hot spots.

Certain breeds are at increased risk of developing skin tumors: WebVet says it’s especially important to pay protect boxers, dobermans, bulldogs, bichons, poodles, and schnauzers from the sun.

Pet dermatologist  Carol S. Foil, DVM, who is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, says sunscreen can and should be used on pets, but notes that different products are appropriate cats and dogs.

Dr. Foil recommends that the sunscreen be fragrance free, non-staining, and contain UVA and UVB barriers similar to SPF 15 or SPF 30 for humans. (SPF labeling and claims are not permitted in products marketed for use on pets, however, because the FDA has not established a test to determine SPF values in pets.) Some protective ingredients include  Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Octyl Salicylate, Homosalate and  Benzophenone-3.  Octyl Salicylate products should not be used on cats.

There are some sunscreens created specifically for pets, but using baby sunscreen is also an option. Most human sunscreens have ingestion warnings because the ingredients can be toxic if a child or dog ingests them, so if your pet is likely to lick it, look for a pet-specific sunscreen. One thing to remember about sunscreen is that you need to use plenty of it, and you should re-apply regularly during sun exposure.  It is recommended to use at least 1 tablespoon of lotion or cream for each body area treated!  Sunscreen should be re-applied every 4 to 6 hours during the brightest time of the day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There are only a handful of pet sunscreen products on the market. Dr. Foil recommends a SPF 15 spray sunscreen from Doggles, and Epi-Pet Sun Protector (labeled for use in dogs, not cats).

(via: Yahoo!  Shine)

(Photo Credit: Flickr)

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