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Sun Management & Dog Sunscreen: An Australian Guide to Protecting Your Doggo


One of the most commonly overlooked dangers dogs face is sun exposure. Despite being covered in fur, dogs do get sunburned, which can lead to sunburn, and even skin cancer. While many dog parents don’t think too much about problems caused by excessive sun,  we know that a few minutes before you head out on a sunny walk can make a big difference for your dog. If you’ve never considered dog sunscreen and setting up some sun respites in your yard for your dog, we’re here to help.

Shining Some Light on the Danger of Too Much Sun Exposure

Dogs can and do get sunburned. How a dog gets sunburned is simple: the sun emits UV rays that damage the skin cells, resulting in pain, peeling, and the need for the body’s immune system to respond.

Repeated damage to the skin can result in skin cancer

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen?

Generally speaking, yes. Dogs that are going to be in the sun for more than a few minutes need dog-friendly sunscreen. 

However, not all dogs are affected by the sun in the same way. Some dogs are more susceptible to sunburn than others. The amount of time in the sun also affects the likelihood of a dog getting sunburned.

In general, dogs with lighter-coloured coats, thin coats, and especially hairless breeds are much more likely to suffer from sunburn.

What Are the Effects of Too Much Sun Exposure & Signs of Sunburn?

A dog with a sunburn experiences many of the same symptoms as a person who becomes sunburned. The most common and immediate signs include:

  • Blisters on skin
  • Dry, cracked or flaky skin
  • Fever and fevered skin
  • Reddened skin
  • Skin that is painful to the touch

Longer-term and more serious sun exposure can lead to

  • Light pigmentation on their nose and eyelids
  • Scar tissue
  • Thickened lesions
  • Lumps and bumps

What can increase your dog’s risk of sunburn?

While dogs with lighter coat colours are at higher risk of sunburn, there are other factors that can increase the likelihood of a dog experiencing a sunburn. These include:

  • A flea infestation
  • Excessive shedding
  • Shaved fur
  • Bacterial or fungal infection
  • Medications that make the skin more sensitive to sun

If your dog has a thick coat or has dark pigmentation, they will be less likely to suffer from sunburn. But it’s still important to be aware of the signs and protect your pupper, just in case.

What Dog Breeds Are at Higher Risk for Sunburn?

Because of their skin pigmentation and their lack of a heavy coat, the following breeds are more likely to suffer from the effects of long exposure to the sun:

  • American hairless terrier
  • Australian sheepdog
  • Beagle
  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Chinese crested
  • Collie
  • Dalmatian
  • Golden retriever
  • Greyhound
  • Yellow Labrador retriever
  • Mexican hairless dog 
  • Weimaraner
  • Whippet

How to Select a Dog-Safe Sunscreen

If your dog is susceptible to sunburn, look for a sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF. Check to make sure that it does not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid–neither of these chemicals is good for your dog.

Look for one that has no fragrance added. Many dogs are allergic to the additives used to create fragrances. It’s also important to remember, that your dog’s sense of scent is quite strong, so applying a scented sunscreen can be overwhelming to a dog.

You also want to consider a sunscreen that is water resistant, especially if your doggo likes to splash in ponds and puddles.

Test Your Dog’s Sunscreen Before You Slather

Remember to apply just a little sunscreen to your dog in one small spot to see if they have any allergic reactions–It is better to deal with a small reaction than a large one.

How to Protect Your Dog with Sunscreen

Dogs tend to get burned where their fur is thinnest, places like their nose and ears, around their eyes and mouth. You will want to apply the sunscreen about 15 minutes before you go out so that the skin can absorb it, then apply it again in 4 hours if you are out that long.

Where to Apply Sunscreen on Your Dog

When it comes to protecting your dog, you will want to consider where their fur is the thinnest (or absent) and what areas are more susceptible to the sun.

Apply to nose and ears

When you are putting it around your dog’s face, make sure that you don’t get any in your dog’s eyes because it can irritate them. Apply sunscreen on every area of the face where the skin is pink and there is little or no hair. Make sure that you get sunscreen on their nose, the tips of their ears and the skin around their lips.

Dogs with thin coats need it on their backs

Apply it in every area where the hair is thin or non-existent. So if your dog has thin hair on their back, make sure that you rub it into the skin there. You will also want to rub it on their tummy and the inside of their legs, especially if they love to lie on their back when they are getting some sun.

Reapply as needed

Read the instructions on the sunscreen to see what the manufacturer recommends, but generally, you will need to put more sunscreen on your doggo every 4 hours.

Dogs Benefit From Sun Protection In Addition to Sunscreen

Applying commercial sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect your doggo from the ravages of the sun. You do have other options.

Avoid Unnecessary Sun Exposure & Create Shade

Just keeping your dog inside during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are the strongest can help.

Create a respite from the sun with a shady spot in the yard. This can be as easy as a beach umbrella, a tent, or adding a small tree to your yard.

Try Coconut Oil

You can try rubbing your dog with coconut oil. Not only will this help with sunburn, but it is also a good source of vitamin D. Some people have found that shea butter helps prevent sunburn on their dogs, too.

Dress for the Weather

One other option for your doggo is a dog shirt. There are many on the market, and your four-legged friend just might like being a fashionista. The fabric for the shirt will block UV rays just like sunscreen. Just make sure that you get one that fits your dog and covers those areas that are sun sensitive.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Gets Sunburned?

If you think that your dog is getting sunburned, get your dog into the shade or indoors as soon as possible. Then, apply cold compresses to the injured area, and you might want to apply aloe vera as well.

Your vet can prescribe antibiotics and pain medications if needed and recommend topical creams and ointments that can help to heal the burn.

Check Your Dog Regularly for Signs of Overexposure to the Sun

Remember to check your dog’s skin once a month to see if there are any new reddish spots, areas of the skin that have become flaky or inflamed or lumps that weren’t there before. If you do notice any of these, make an appointment with your vet. These spots can turn into cancer or be cancerous. Your vet can check to see if it is cancerous or not.

Stay Made in the Shade with Your Dog

One of the joys of being a puppy parent is the time you get to share outside. So enjoy the sun but if your doggo is susceptible to getting burned or getting cancer, make sure that you take precautions to protect your forever friend from the sun’s UV rays. With a little care and caution, you and your forever friend will enjoy the sunny summers for a long time to come!