A lot of people think dogs don’t need shielding from the sun’s UV rays. But sunburn and even skin cancer can occur in canines that get too much sunlight. Here’s how to protect your pooch.

Whenever you take your dog outdoors, he’ll be exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. While most dogs have hair that acts as a natural sunscreen, frequent or prolonged sun exposure will eventually take its toll. Dogs have sensitive skin, and even 30 minutes of sun can result in a burn in some breeds. Sunburn in a dog can appear as red skin or even hair loss.

Dogs most at risk are working canines and those subjected to lots of sun exposure during family activities such as boating and hiking. All hairless breeds and dogs that have been clipped should be kept out of the sun as much as possible. Breeds such as terriers, spaniels, Chihuahuas, Doberman pinschers and other shorthaired dogs, as well as all breeds with white or pink skin, are at high risk for sunburn.

Preventing sunburn

Before you start thinking you’ll have to keep your dog inside more, know that you can protect him from the sun’s harmful rays using sunscreens or specially-designed apparel, and by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

  1. Use a non-toxic sunscreen formulated for dogs or children. Most dogs will lick the sunscreen after application, so find something that won’t harm your canine if he ingests it. Look for a product that is free of fragrances, PABA and zinc oxide.
  2. Veterinarian Dr. Douglas H. Thamm recommends using UV blocking sun shirts for dogs. This is a good alternative if you are unable to find a natural sunscreen. Lightweight sun shirts are great for outdoor activities and will keep your dog’s coat cool throughout the day.
  3. Walk your dog in the early morning or evening when the sun is lower in the sky, and make sure he has access to shade in your back yard, at your cottage or on your boat.
  4. Don’t shave him! A summer trim is fine, but because his coat is a natural sun barrier, shaving him too short puts him at greater risk of sun damage. Brush him regularly and invest in an undercoat rake to thin out his heavy fur and keep him as cool as possible without exposing his delicate skin.
  5. Remember to protect his eyes. Pet goggles provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and prevent melanoma of the eye. Most companies offer doggie goggles that are shatterproof and flexible to accommodate even the most active canines.

Following these simple precautions will help ensure your canine companion stays safe from the sun all summer long!

Shopping for sunscreen

  • The Natural Dog Snout Soother (SPF 10) contains shea butter, kukui nut oil and vitamin E to offer snout sunburn protection and relief.
  • Epi-Pet’s Sun Protector sunscreen is formulated especially for dogs and is fragrance free. It also contains tocopheryl, an antioxidant that promotes healing for burned or damaged skin.
  • Safe products made for children include Badger Balm SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen, or Jasön Kids Natural Sunscreen with SPF 46.


Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.