You wouldn’t head out for a day of fun in the sun without slathering yourself and the kids in sunscreen, but what about our four-legged, furry friends?
In addition to providing our dogs with UPF50 clothing, proper shade, and hydration on sunny days, sunscreen should be part of your warm-weather care routine.
Can Dogs Get Sunburned?
Yes, just like us, our doges can get burned from sun exposure. Millie Rosales DVM, DACVD, of Miami Veterinary Dermatology, says that a sunburned dog can suffer from red, inflamed skin that becomes irritated and painful. Sunburns on dogs can also lead to hair loss and scaly skin.
All the doggie sunscreens contain chemicals. The question is how safe are the sunscreens that are specifically made for dogs?
After some research, I have collected information on sunscreen for dogs most commonly found in pet shops, drugstores, and online. You may be surprised to see the results below.
Which Doggie Sunscreen to Choose?
I have looked at several common brands of sunscreen for dogs and tried to find out the ingredients in each brand. As you will see, some products list only the main ingredients and there is no way to find out if those products contain any other ingredients that are unsafe.
For each ingredient listed on a product, I have checked the Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" Database for safety.
In that database, each ingredient is given a "hazard score" on a 0-10 scale (0-2 low hazard; 3-6 moderate hazard; 7-10 high hazard), so if an ingredient has a score of 8, it means it is definitely not safe for use on people and by extension on our dogs
Here are a few reviewed dog sunscreens (naturaldoghealthremedies.com):
Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray
Ingredients: Benzophenone-3 (score 8); Ethylhexl Methoxycinnamate (score 4); Homosalate (score 4); Octyl Salicylate (score 3); Ethylhexl Salicylate (score 3); C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (score 1); Octylacrylamide Copolymer (score 0)
Comments: Ironically, this sunscreen is said to be "the first pet sunscreen that is compliant with U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards." However, one of its ingredients, Benzophenone-3, has a high-hazard score. Other ingredients are causes for concern as well. In addition, it is a spray which increases the possibility of dogs inhaling the spray particles. Definitely not a safe sunscreen for dogs!
My Dog Nose It
Active Ingredients: Octinoxate (score 6); Oxybenzone (score 8)
Comments: This product is touted as "revolutionary", "completely natural", and "non-toxic" on the company's website. However, a look at the two active ingredients suggests otherwise. Oxybenzone can readily be absorbed into the skin and it acts like estrogen in the body, which has been found to change sperm production in animals. Oxybenzone can also cause skin allergies. Octinoxate can also cause skin allergies (though not at as high a rate as Oxybenzone), and it may interfere with thyroid functions in animals. I wouldn't use it on my dog.
Doggles Pets Sunscreen
Ingredients (Not All Ingredients Listed): Octyl Methoxycinnamate (score 4); DMDM Hydantoin (score 9)
Comments: This product does not have all of its ingredients listed, but the two main ingredients have a moderate and high hazard score, respectively. It is also an inhalable spray. A definite no no!
Two Homemade All-Natural Sunscreens Recipe for Your Dog
First Doggie Sunscreen Recipe that is Safe (from earthremedy.org) Mix these ingredients together:
1/2 cup of 100% pure organic aloe gel
20 drops pure raspberry seed oil
5 tbsp coconut oil (in its thick form)
3 capsules of vitamin E oil (break open the capsules)
5 drops of lavender oil.
Second Homemade Sunscreen recipe for Your Dog (from allnaturalpetcare.com)
3 TBSP Sesame oil
2 TBSP Coconut oil
1 TBSP Emulsifying wax or natural beeswax (use more for thicker lotion)
1/2 cup pure green or black tea brew (or half & half)
1 tsp Calcium Montmorillonite Clay
3 TBSP Pure Aloe Vera (no alcohol)
6 drops Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil
5 drops Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Essential Oil
2 drops Carrot Seed (Daucus carota) Essential Oil
2 drops Myrhh (Commiphora myrrha) Essential Oil
2 drops Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) Essential Oil
1 drop Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) Essential Oil
Mix sesame oil, coconut oil & wax in a double broiler and heat until melted. Remove from heat and mix in essential oils.
In a bowl, mix tea brew, aloe vera, and calcium montmorillonite clay together and bring to lukewarm temperature on stove or in microwave.
Whisk vigorously while slowly adding tea mixture into the oil mixture.
Pour into a dark glass jar and store in the refrigerator.
Apply only as much as necessary on exposed areas and reapply after swimming. Your dog will need a bath after their day in the sun is done.
Caution: Experts recommend diluting essential oils considerably for use with pets. Please do not increase the amount of individual ingredients without increasing carrier oil and do not overuse. Resist the urge to add citrus oils for scent as they can actually increase UV damage. Avoid eye area and do not apply directly to genitalia. Keep all essential oils out of reach of pets and children.
Note that while the above sunscreen can protect our dogs from some UV rays, it's not 100% and we shouldn't rely on this sunscreen only.
That means, in addition to using the sunscreen, we should limit the time that our dogs are being exposed to the sun, and provide our dogs some shade to rest after playing in the sun.
Try to wisely choose your time in the sun, by avoiding the most intense rays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and seeking shade when possible.
Finally, you can look into purchasing Louie de Coton sun shirts for dogs that block over 98% of UV rays.
While individually, these measures may not be 100% "sunburn proof", but together they could work well. Most importantly, they are safer for our dogs!
What is the best sun protection choice?
Guess what: It's not sunscreen.
Sun clothing with UPF50 such as Louie de Coton is the most effective and safe method and only put sunscreen on what's exposed."
Disclaimer: I’m not a veterinarian. My recommendation is based on my research and experience. I can’t guarantee you will have the same results, nor can I say how it will affect your dog.
Please consult your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about using the right sunscreen for your pups.