Do dogs need sunscreen?

July 26, 2021

Did you know that your doggo needs protection from UV rays? Sunscreen isn't just for humans!

It’s summertime and you want to spend some quality time with your dog out in the sun. You apply some of that thick 60 SPF to your nose and stop to think, do I need sun protection for my dog?

Like everything in life, the sun comes with positives and negatives. The sun boosts body vitamin D, serotonin and helps to regulate circadian rhythms. Soaking up some sunlight has also been shown to help improve certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, canine lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and thyroiditis. However, the sun also emits UV radiation. Aside from a gnarly sunburn, too much sun exposure has been linked to cancer (melanoma) and rapid aging in humans. 

cute dog of dachshund, black and tan, buried in the sand at the beach sea on summer vacation holidays, wearing red sunglasses with coconut cocktail cute dog of dachshund, black and tan, buried in the sand at the beach sea on summer vacation holidays, wearing red sunglasses with coconut cocktail dog sun stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

To protect ourselves, we lather up in sunscreen before spending time outdoors for an extended period of time. But our dogs have fur, do they also need a layer of sunscreen? According to veterinarian Dr. Richard Goldstein, the answer is yes! A quote he made to PetMd stated, “It’s actually very important to put sunscreen on dogs, especially those with light skin and white fur or hair. A dog’s skin can be damaged by the sun just like our own, so they require the same protection against the development of sunburn and skin cancer.”

Now you may be thinking, sure it makes sense that a short-haired, light coloured dog would need sunscreen but how would sunscreen help my hairy husky? For darker, hairier dogs it’s not so much their general body that needs protection but certain, more exposed areas. If a dog is outdoors during peak sun hours (around 11am-5pm), sunscreen should be applied to sensitive areas like the nose, around the lips, tips of the ears, the groin, and the belly.

Funny dog on summer vacation at swimming pool Funny cute dog wearing sunglasses on summer vacation at swimming pool. dog sunscreen stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Some dogs even need sunscreen applied to the majority of their bodies. These dogs are the naked ones, the Mexican hairless dogs (xoloitzcuintli), Chinese cresteds, and the American hairless terriers, among others. There are even some hairy dog breeds who may appear to be “naked” as they suffer from a condition called alopecia. These dogs are much more sensitive to the sun than their hairy counterparts and will require more attentive sunscreen application.

Human sunscreen should only be used on dogs as a last resort. There are sunscreens specifically designed for use on canine skin. If you cannot find a doggy specific sunscreen, baby sunscreen will also work in a pinch.

Before applying a broad layer of sunscreen, do a small test patch first in order to ensure that they will not have a negative reaction. It is also important to avoid their eyes and ensure that they are not licking off the sunscreen. 

happy dog happy dog dog sun stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

If you do not feel comfortable applying sunscreen on your dog, there are other options! Bodysuits, shirts, and hats can also help protect your dog and block UV rays. Just make sure that the material is not too thick in order to avoid overheating. 

Ultimately, get out and enjoy the sun but keep safety in mind. Sunscreen and sun shirts are a great way to protect your pooch from the sun’s rays!


Pet MD. “Can Dogs Get Sunburned?” 2020.

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