Can my pet suffer from sunburn?
There’s a reason why Florida is called the sunshine state. For many of us, the sunshine and the warm climate is one of the reasons we live here. As we spend time outdoors in the sun, we usually liberally apply sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays- but what about your pet? Should they get the same protection that we do? Yes- they should, but likely with a different product than what you use.
The fact of the matter is- your pet can suffer from sunburn if exposed to too much sun. In our semi-tropical climate, we can feel the effects of sunburn in as little as 30 minutes (or less depending on your tolerance)- and the same goes for our pets. Your sunscreen likely won’t be what’s best for your pet- and there’s a good chance that it could actually be harmful.
Does my dog need sunscreen?
If your dog spends plenty of time outside in the sun, yes. The sun’s damaging rays are just as bad for your pets as it is for you. As a general rule, the thinner the coat or the lighter the skin- the harder the sun is on your pet- just like fair-skinned people need more protection from the sun’s rays.
Even if your pet has a thicker coat, there are still times when your pet will need protection. If your pet has recently been groomed- and they’ve got less hair than normal, consider using sunscreen. If your pet has recently had a surgical procedure where a shave of a portion their coat was needed, sunscreen is a good idea. Don’t put sunscreen on sutures, but apply it around the sutured area. These areas probably never see the sun’s rays, so protection is important to prevent sunburn.
Zinc Oxide is toxic
Zinc Oxide is common in many sunscreens- and is likely an ingredient in the product you use to protect yourself. Any product that uses zinc oxide should not be used for your pet. Be sure to read the label and check the ingredients. Just because a product is sold in a pet store doesn’t necessarily mean that it is 100% safe. Zinc Oxide is toxic if ingested, and can lead to anemia, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and more. It is important to remember if you apply a sunscreen to yourself that you do not allow your dog to lick it off of your skin. A trip to the vet’s office could be the result.
Other ingredients to avoid include PABA and salicylates. Salicylates can come in several forms such as:
Homomenthyl salicylate (homosalate)
Ethylhexyl salicylate (octyl salicylate)
I have found only one sunscreen for dogs that has been approved by the FDA. It is called Epi-Pet, and has an estimated SPF rating of 30 or greater (The FDA does not rate SPF for pet products). At a minimum, use nothing less than 15 SPF. I like the idea of this product since it is approved and has been tested by the FDA. This product is not intended for cats. There are lots of other products out there available online- and you may find something you prefer- but be sure to check the ingredients to ensure they’re safe for your pet.
If you’re not interested in using sunscreen products like sprays or lotions- you may want to consider purchasing shirts for your pet- which are SPF rated to protect your pooch. Yes, this is a real thing. I’ve found a good website that offers stylish, but functional sunwear for your pets- it can be found here. They have sizes from XS to XL- so make sure you get the proper size to properly protect your pet.
If you’re planning on spending lots of time outdoors with your pet, don’t forget to take a look at my other summertime blogs on keeping your pets safe- and cool in our Florida heat. That blog can be found here.