Sunscreen for dogs is probably something that you hadn't thought about before. If that's true, don't worry, you're hardly alone. While we're used to slathering ourselves with sunscreen before hitting the beach for the day, most of us assume that our dog's thick coat of fur acts as natural protection from the sun. This is true to an extent but not completely, which means that the answer to the question is yes, dogs really do need sunscreen!
A dog's skin, like human skin, is sensitive to the harmful UV rays of the sun and is vulnerable to the same kind of damage, including sunburn and skin cancer. While fur can help protect the skin to a degree, in the areas with less fur coverage, such as the nose, lips, tips of the ears, groin and belly, it is important to provide extra protection. This is particularly true for breeds with short coats and those with light or white fur, but it applies to all breeds.
In general, using sunscreen for dogs is only necessary if your dog is going to be exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. This applies to breeds like the Australian Shepherd that work outdoors and frequently compete in dog sports like agility trials or dogs that love to sunbathe and always seem to seek out the sunniest spots. If you're just walking your dog around the block he should be perfectly okay without sun protection.
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Sun protection is also particularly important for dogs that have a medical condition which is causing them to lose their hair. Dogs undergoing chemotherapy, for instance, may be prone to developing bald spots. Simply put, any time the skin is directly exposed to sunlight it is vulnerable to painful sunburn, scaling of the skin and developing melanomas and other forms of skin cancer.
Fortunately for concerned owners, there is sunscreen for dogs available on the market today. These brands, including Epi-Pet, are designed specifically for dogs and other pets and should be your first choice for protecting your pet. That's because they are made using ingredients that are safe if your dog ingests them by licking the sunscreen off, which is a common occurrence that is difficult to avoid.
If you absolutely can't find a sunscreen specifically designed for pets, you can use one designed for babies or sensitive skin. If you do go this route, you should be particularly careful to choose a sunscreen that does not contain zinc oxide or PABA, two common ingredients found in human sunscreen that can be toxic to dogs if ingested.
Once you've chosen a sunscreen for dogs, you should apply it to a small area of skin first and wait a short while to determine whether there is any kind of negative reaction. If not, you can then proceed to apply it to any areas of exposed skin, being particularly careful to avoid getting it in your dog's eyes. It is not necessary to cover the entire body, as your dog's fur will provide protection for the majority of his skin.
Remember if you are taking your dog out for an extended amount of time, you need to protect him from the heat as well as the sun. Make sure he is properly hydrated at all times and that he has regular access to shade to avoid heat stroke. With the right approach, you and your dog can avoid overheating and skin damage and have plenty of fun in the sun!
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