Putting Sunscreen on Dogs

by Naomi Millburn
    White-haired dogs are especially susceptible to sunburn.

    White-haired dogs are especially susceptible to sunburn.

    Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

    While day trips with doggie are ideally carefree, that doesn't mean precaution measures aren't necessary. Dogs can experience unpleasant sunburn just like humans, complete with skin redness. Excessive sun can indeed cause skin cancer in dogs. They need sunscreen, too -- but not the human kind.

    Importance of Canine Sunscreen

    Being in the sun can be problematic for dogs of all varieties, especially those with delicate hair, little hair, shaved areas, pale hair or pale, pinkish skin. Canines with dark and thick fur, which is more protective, generally do not need sunscreen as much, although they do still need it in spots that are hairless such as their noses, ears, joints and feet. Some will need more liberal application than others on broader body parts -- sparse, light-toned fur won't provide as much natural sun protection as dense, dark fur.

    Use Sunscreen Exclusively for Dogs

    If your pet enjoys tagging along with you on your summer jogs in the park, or even playing for hours in the backyard as you socialize with friends, apply sunscreen onto him before he even steps outside. Use only sunscreens that are designed exclusively for canines, advises the ASPCA. If the product doesn't say it's made for dogs, stay away from it. Putting your own sunblock on your pet risks harming him -- so don't do it. Pet supplies stores frequently sell sunscreens for dogs. Consult your veterinarian for safe suggestions and to determine your dog's specific sunscreen application needs.

    Applying Sunscreen to a Dog

    Before applying a suitable canine sunscreen, carefully examine your pet. Look for areas of thin, sparse or no fur. These parts could include his stomach, the ends of his ears, his nose and lower parts of his legs. Put the product on those parts. If the need applies to his entire body, you may do the same all over if you choose against a piece of apparel that covers the body. If skin is showing, it needs sun protection any time your skin does. When you put sunscreen on your dog, do so by gently massaging it on with your hands. Be thorough and don't miss any potentially fragile areas. Always avoid getting any product into your pet's eyes, too. Don't assume that you need to apply sunscreen only once per outing. If you're planning on being outdoors all day, repeat application in intervals of between four and six hours.

    Other Sun Protection Techniques

    Shielding your pet from the sun in other ways helps prevent burning. Shade is your dog's friend. You can also protect your dog by making him wear light protective attire such as T-shirts. Some people choose to do both: They apply sunscreen to the body and then put the dogs in T-shirts, which keep the sunscreen from easily smearing off. If your dog has sparse fur, you might want to stop him from going out into direct sun in general, especially in the heart of the day.

    Precautions With Sunscreen

    Always closely monitor your dog when he's wearing sunscreen. Do not allow him to lick it off. You might be able to prevent your pet from licking it off by giving him a tasty treat right after you put the product on. Consuming sunscreen could lead to unpleasant and dangerous effects such as throwing up, salivation, exhaustion, unusual thirst and diarrhea. Notify a veterinarian of the issue immediately if your dog displays any of these symptoms or if you witness the dog consuming sunscreen.

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    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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