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Posted on Wed, May 12, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

Pets' tender skin needs sun protection, too

By Lorrie Shaw

A walk along the shore, soaking up some rays and enjoying the sand between the toes is something that we here in Michigan relish each year during our all too short summers. When the nice weather hits it's all about the outdoor activities - not only for us, but our pets.

yellow lab, dog, face

This guy needs adequate protection from the sun to keep him smiling.

Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

These days, it's second nature to reach for the sunscreen before we head out. It's a must to protect our skin from UVA and UVB rays. But what about our critters? Absolutely, they need sun protection, too! Dogs and cats with light skin, short and thinning fur or fur loss are especially susceptable to the sun's rays. (Our fair skinned yellow lab, Bruiser, falls into that category.)

Many folks shave their dogs in the summer to help aid in keeping them cooler, and shaved pets are in even greater need of sun protection. Dogs and cats like to roll on their backs and expose their tummies, so applying sunscreen there is essential. Simply walking along the water or near concrete allows UV rays to reflect off and onto bare skin. The groin area, inside the legs is especially tender, as is the bridge of the nose and tips of the ears. So, be sure to apply 20 minutes or so before going out for optimum protection, and reapply when the sun is its strongest, mid-morning to midday, every four to six hours.

I checked with Dr. Amanda Critchfield from Chelsea Animal Hospital, and she informed me that using sunscreen formulated for humans is perfectly acceptable. It is assumed that SPF ratings are the same for dogs, cats and humans alike, and using a sweatproof/waterproof formula is recommended to help avoid ingestion, since pets have a tendency to groom themselves and will lick it off. Critchfield recommends "applying and distracting" for a few minutes to avoid ingestion.

Also, non-greasy formulations are a great choice. All major sunscreens are considered safe in small amounts - including those that contain avobenzone (Parsol 1789). Do not use formulas that incude zinc in their ingredient lists. Sunscreens containing salicylates should not be used on cats, as there is a potiential for toxicity.

If your pet needs a full body cover, or if you are unclear about your pets' specific situation, talk to your veterinarian. And remember, sun exposure happens year-round. If your pet is outside for extended periods of time in the sun even in the winter, sunscreen is needed then, too.

Lorrie Shaw resides in Dexter Township with her family and lives her passion as professional dog walker and pet sitter for many species of animals. Staying up to date on the pulse of pet-related topics, she blogs about them frequently. If you have an issue or topic that you would like to see addressed, contact Lorrie via e-mail.


Lorrie Shaw

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 9:10 p.m.

Thanks for your input, Ann. There's no reason why our four legged counterparts can't enjoy canoeing and stuff - keeping them protected is important when they are taking part in those activities. The water only magnifies the effects and intensity of the sun. Your lucky pooch sounds delightful and it sounds as though he's got a pretty full life - one that's encompasses "more than four walls"!

Ann Dwyer

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

I find this very useful, actually. My dog has very thin fur, perhaps because he was bred by a illegal breeder who may have been trying to create a "designer" dog. We take him to the beach and canoeing, and the sun is a major concern. We usually create little shady spots for him or cover him with a wet t-shirt. I didn't think sunscreen was an option. Now I know it is. Good to know.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 11:28 a.m.

Last I checked, there's not a lot of concrete or asphalt in the wild. And I'm pretty sure before dogs were domesticated, there weren't gaping holes in the ozone layer and a layer of smog to keep the heat in.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

Animals probably survived the same way humans did. Why would you think your dog's skin is any different from your own? I think Lorrie makes a good point. Sunscreen is preventative maintenance for humans AND animals.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 10:04 p.m.

How did animals every survive in the wild without humans to apply sunscreen for them? I agree. This article is absolutely absurd.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 6:12 p.m.

I'm sorry, but the idea of applying sunscreen to a dog is the most absurd thing I've heard in a long time.