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Dog Sun Tan Lotion, is it Necessary?

Updated on August 6, 2016

Ready for the "Dog Days" of Summer?


Dog Sun Tan Lotion: Do Dogs Really Need It?

The stores are always stocked heavily with lotions, creams and sprays so we can protect our skin from the sun, but what about sun tan lotion for dogs? Do they really need it? As lovers of the great outdoors, dogs have seemingly lived hundreds of years exposed to the sun without major apparent problems, other than the occasional heat stroke horror, mostly caused by irresponsible dog owners. Yet, it would make perfectly sense to want to protect a dog's skin from those rays which have become more and more harmful. So is sun tan lotion for dogs one of the latest business fads just so companies make some good seasonal money, or is it something you really should think about buying to protect your pampered pooch during his outings on the beach or casual strolls? Let's evaluate the function of sun tan lotion for dogs and the risks Fido may encounter during the "dog days of the summer."

In humans, sun screen is a lotion, cream or spray meant to protect from sunburn. On top of that, the American Cancer Society recommends its use because it can help prevent dangerous skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinomas and basal-cell carcinomas. So we may wonder what are the risks in dogs? Do dogs also get sun burn, and are they vulnerable to certain types of cancers? You may think that dogs have fur, and therefore, they are pretty safe, but the answer is that it's not enough.The sun can still penetrate through your dog's fur especially if your dog is hair-less, has short, fine hair and has light-colored skin. On top of that, consider that dogs also have vulnerable areas with just a little bit of fine hair such as the bridge of the nose, inguinal area, inside of the legs, lips and ear tips.

Certain dog breeds are also predisposed to developing skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma. In particular, boxers and Weimaraners are at risk for developing cancer, explains Kim Marie Labak in an article on the College of Veterinary Medicine - University of Illinois website. Other concerns include skin ulcerations which can leave the skin susceptible to bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections along with autoimmune skin diseases like pemphigus and lupus. So do dogs really need sun screen? Veterinarians and veterinary associations seem to concur that when it comes to the exposure to sun, dogs get much more than beneficial vitamin D.

Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen, Paws to Tail Protection, Prevents Sunburns on Dogs and Horses, Sun Protector Spray, SPF 30+, Non-Greasy/Oily Solution – 3.5 oz
Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen, Paws to Tail Protection, Prevents Sunburns on Dogs and Horses, Sun Protector Spray, SPF 30+, Non-Greasy/Oily Solution – 3.5 oz
Epi-Pet Sun Protector is the Only FDA compliant sunscreen for pets. All dogs and horses exposed to sun need sunscreen. Any pet with short and thin hair, white and light hair, white and pink skin and all pets subjected to excessive sun exposure. Not for use in cats!

Did You Know?

A dog's skin is much more sensitive than yours. Your skin is about 10 to 15 cell layers thick, whereas, Rover's skin is between three and five layers. Of course, dogs have the added bonus of being blessed with a layer of fur, so this prevents them from getting sunburn as easily as humans do. Yet, when dogs manage to get a sunburn, it could lead to long-term problems.

Types of Dog Sun Tan Lotion

So there's no doubt that dog sun tan lotion is more than just a fad; it's a necessity. So what type of doggy sunscreen should you invest in ? According to Virbac, "Veterinary dermatologists recommend a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher". Yet, hold your horses. Don't be tempted to just grab that regular bottle of lotion you have packed for you and your family and lather it on your pooch; sun tan lotion for humans is not specifically formulated for Rover, and can even turn out being toxic if your friend licks some off.

In particular, you want to avoid sun screens with PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and zinc oxide which is toxic to dogs when ingested and may cause severe anemia. The ideal product should be fragrance-free and should contain UVA and UVB barriers. An alternate option to sun screen formulated for humans may be baby sunscreen; yet, you may find ingestion warnings if a child or dog ingests it, so you're better off investing in a product that is purposely formulated for dogs, explains veterinarian Carol S. Foil in an article for Veterinary Partner. So far, it looks like there is only one FDA pet-approved sun lotion for dogs known as " Epi-Pet Sun Protector." While great for dogs and horses, it's good to know though that it's not good for cats as it contains salicylic acid-- which is toxic to cats.

Further precautions and Tips to Keep Fido Safe:

  • Make sure Rover has always access to shade and water.
  • Learn how to recognize the early signs of heatstroke in dogs.
  • Avoid trimming your dog's fur as this makes him more prone to sun burn. Consult with your groomer.
  • Try your best to keep your dog out of the sun between the hours of 10 AM to 3 PM.
  • Consider that sun screen on the abdomen tends to get off as the dog walks over grass and plays. A spandex-body suit can be a good idea, recommends Dr. Karen Campbell, veterinary dermatologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana.
  • Dog boots may help protect the dog's paws from the hot asphalt.
  • Doggles (protective eye wear for dogs) may also be helpful.
  • Don't just assume indoor dogs are safe; they can still be exposed to harmful rays when they sunbathe by their favorite window.

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