Dogs Need Sunscreen Too

Using sunscreen on your dog: Published on Webvet (

Don’t forget to grab special dog sunscreen the next time you’re heading out for a day of fun-in-the-sun with your dog. That’s right; dogs need protection from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays, just as people do. As in people, overexposure to UV rays can give your dog a nasty case of sunburn, peeling of skin, and painful inflammation, and also increase the risk of skin cancer.
Fur goes only so far.

Because dogs have fur, people often assume that they are not in any danger of getting sunburned. But this is not so. While fur does provide some degree of protection to much of a dog’s body, the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, and areas lacking pigmentation are more vulnerable. In addition, if you shave your dog or he has suffered hair loss due to illness or medical treatment, the exposed skin is at risk of sun damage.

But even where the skin is covered with fur, there is a need for protection. Sunlight can easily penetrate dog fur, especially if it is light colored, of short length, or naturally fine in texture. Certain breeds that are at increased risk of developing skin tumors (such as boxers, dobermans, bulldogs, bichons, poodles, schnauzers, and others) are also at greater risk of sun exposure.

The need for sunscreen protection has been recognized by mainstream veterinary medicine. The American Animal Hospital Association and the American College of Veterinary Dermatology both advise sunscreen protection for pets.

The options for protection

The simplest choice of protection is to use the same sunscreen on your pet as you use for yourself. The problem with doing so, however, is that pet skin is not the same as human skin and may have a different degree of UV sensitivity. In addition, certain ingredients in human sunscreens, such as PABA, can be irritating – or even toxic – to animals. A further problem is that many sunscreens are oily and will stain upholstery if, for example, your dog stretches out for a snooze on the sofa.

Not surprisingly, the choice of sunscreen products specifically formulated for animals is more limited than for people. However, such products are available. Doggles and Nutri-Vet are two of the better-known brands.

Something new under the sun

A new product that takes a different approach to canine sun protection has recently come on the market. Developed by Bradenton, Fla. veterinarian and esthetician Michael Fleck, Epi-Pet Sun Protector Sunscreen Spray contains four sunscreens in a water-resistant, non-oily base. A recent article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Epi-Pet is the first pet sunscreen that is compliant with U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards. According to Fleck, it has been formulated to be compatible with a dog’s skin chemistry, which differs significantly from that of people. (Note to cat owners: Epi-Pet contains salicylates, which are harmful to cats if ingested. Fleck is working on a cat-friendly formulation.)

Epi-Pet comes in a spray bottle that is free of ozone-depleting additives. The spray valve produces a fine mist that, when brushed, penetrates a dog’s coat all the way to the skin. The spray valve is especially designed to function at all angles – even upside-down – so that every part of the dog’s skin surface can be easily reached.

While it is the policy of WebVet not to endorse particular pet health products or medications, Epi-Pet Sun Protector deserves a closer look. Check with your vet to determine if this might be an appropriate solution for your pet.

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