Dog sitting at a swimming pool.

With so many trails to roam and beaches to bask on, California is a sun-lover’s dream. And if you plan on taking your pet to your next outdoor adventure, make sure you bone up on sun safety for pets.

Most pet owners understand that summer’s hot sun can lead to heat exhaustion or even heatstroke if pets aren’t provided with adequate shade and clean drinking water, but it might surprise you to know that our pets—in spite of being covered in luxurious fur—need sunscreen just like we do.

Read on for tips on sun protection for pets so you can keep your cats and dogs safe and healthy during summer fun. 

Why Do Pets Need Sunscreen?

Pets can get sunburned on the parts of their bodies where there is very little fur—particularly the ears, around their noses and mouths, and their bellies. 

Certain skin cancers in pets have been associated with sun exposure, including malignant melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Hairless breeds and those with thin coats or light skin with white fur are especially at risk of too much sun exposure. 

How to Choose Pet Sunscreen

Dog sunscreen or cat sunscreen can offer your pet protection from the sun’s UV rays, but how do you know which sunscreen is best? 

First off, don’t use sunscreen products made for people, as these can contain ingredients like zinc oxide and salicylates that are dangerous for pets to ingest. That’s why it’s also important to keep your pet from licking your sunscreen off of your skin. If your pet does ingest sunscreen, please contact your veterinarian right away if your pet shows signs of poisoning, like vomiting. 

Choose a sunscreen made just for pets, and read the label carefully. Some dog sunscreens are not to be used as cat sunscreen. Sprays, balms, sticks, and lotions are available. 

As for the appropriate SPF for pets, the AKC recommends using a waterproof, unscented formula with an SPF of 30.

How to Apply Pet Sunscreen

Test the sunscreen on a small part of your pet’s body, and wait to make sure the sunscreen doesn’t irritate your pet’s skin. Be careful to avoid getting any sunscreen in your pet’s eyes, and distract your pet from licking away the sunscreen for the first several minutes so it has a chance to sink in and do its job! And always reapply after your pet takes a plunge in the pool or ocean.

Additional Sun Protection Tips

Besides sunscreen, try these strategies for protecting your pets from the summer sun:

  • Use sun blocking clothing, like shirts, bodysuits, and rash guards made for pets.
  • Sun goggles can shield your dog’s eyes from the sun, wind, and sand.  
  • Limit your pet’s time outdoors during the heat of the afternoon.
  • Use pet booties to protect paws from hot surfaces.

Summer Sun Safety

You and your pets can have fun in the sun with a few precautions. Contact our team at Sky Canyon Animal Hospital for more tips about sun safety for pets.