2001-Tue Dec 06 14:57:21 EST 2016
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
The fun-in-the-sun summer months have officially arrived, which can only mean one thing: It's time to start thinking about sun protection for your pets.
That's right — furry family members can also suffer from the damaging effects of the sun's powerful rays.
The sun gives off different kinds of ultraviolet rays. UVB rays cause sunburns, while UVA rays lead to sun-induced aging and
Not too long ago, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised its rules for regulating sunscreen labels. New developments are also likely to result from last year’s passage of the Sunscreen Innovation Act. The bottom line, however, is that when choosing a sunscreen for yourself or your pet, pick one that blocks both UVA and UVB. These products will be labeled “broad spectrum” and are the products that help prevent sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin aging. If a product has an SPF (sun protection factor) higher than 15 and is broad spectrum, the label may state that the product reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed. In my mind these are preferred products.
That said, not all products are OK to use on a pet.
The thick, white cream that lifeguards slather on their noses contains zinc oxide, a common ingredient in diaper-rash ointments. Zinc oxide is effective as a sunscreen for humans, but it's toxic for
dogs. If ingested, it can damage your dog’s delicate red blood cells, causing them to explode. The resulting anemia can be severe and require a blood transfusion. Bottom line: Never use sunscreens that contain zinc oxide on your dog.
One veterinarian I consulted, who specializes in dermatology, recommends a
BullFrog sunscreen that contains no zinc oxide and low amounts of octisalate — a salicylate that is a frequent ingredient in sunscreens. He recommends this product for pets at risk of sunburn and skin cancer due to thin coats or pale noses.
Having said that, I wouldn't use it on
cats at all as sunscreens that contain salicylates — even a small dose — can land your feline in the kitty ICU. (The most common salicylate is acetylsalicylic acid, also known as
I did find some products on the market specifically for pets. These products contain ingredients commonly used in human sunscreens and the labels have no obvious safety red flags.
But their labels do not contain sunburn-prevention claims, possibly because the FDA does not test sunscreens for pets. One product makes no claims at all, except indicating that the product is considered a supplement.
When we go out in the sun, we tend to don hats, sunglasses and special UV-protective clothing. Your dog can, too!
Doggles makes protective eyewear for canines. It contains a UV-protective coating on shatterproof lenses.
There are also canine rashguard shirts and visors with UPF 50 (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) that meet the recommendations for good-quality sun protection. Just keep in mind that these products aren't perfect — if your
dog likes to sunbathe on her back, for example, rashguard shirts don't cover the delicate skin between the hind legs.
For pets who spend ample time outdoors, you can also consider outfitting an exercise pen or a crate with a sunscreen cover, which functions like a beach umbrella and blocks the sun’s rays.
Ultimately, the best protection is sun avoidance. Keeping your dog or
cat out of the sun, especially between the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., offers the ultimate in foolproof protection.
Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a practicing veterinarian for nearly 30 years, is board-certified in both oncology and internal medicine. She maintains her clinical practice at The Animal Medical Center in New York City, providing primary care to her long-term patients and specialty care to pets with cancer and blood disorders.
This article was updated on June 19, 2015.
More from Vetstreet:
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
We combed through 505,270 kitten
names to determine the hottest male
and female monikers of the year.
We scoured our database of 1.1 million
dogs to find out which male and female
monikers reigned supreme this past…
Christmas trees, fatty foods and other
seasonal items may bring cheer to your
home, but they'll cause harm to your…
Dr. Sarah Wooten takes a closer look at
this curious sleeping habit and what it has
to do with canines’ ancestry.
The Kromfohrlander is said to be
descended from a mixed-breed dog
who was a mascot for American troops.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.