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Flat-Coated Retriever Milo enjoys the nice weather in his backyard in Puyallup, Washington. Maybe he’s thinking, “One day I will retrieve a real duck!” Photo by owner-handler Sherin Denny-Jenkins

Dogs and humans have a lot in common when it comes to the sun. A dog’s skin can be damaged by the sun just like our own, including sunburn and cancers, and they can also develop heat stroke like humans can from excessive sun exposure on a hot day. A dog’s hair or fur protects their skin just like our hair protects the tops of our heads in those of us that have it. However, if a dog’s skin is exposed to significant amounts of sunlight, their skin can also become red and inflamed. To help dog owners keep their pups safe while outside, the American Kennel Club’s (AKC®) Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein provides tips for sun protection.

Sunscreen Is Key

Certain types or breeds of dogs, such as those with short or no coats and dogs that have little pigment such as white dogs are more susceptible to sun sensitivity and sunburn.  Sunscreen should be strongly considered in those susceptible breeds if they are outside for any period of time in strong sunlight.

The safest and most effective sunscreen to put on your dogs is one that is specifically designed for canine use.  You should never use any other type of sunscreen on your pet without your veterinarian’s approval, and never apply tanning lotions or oils to your pet. You can also purchase a fragrance-free sunscreen formulated for babies and children with an SPF of 15 or higher at the local drugstore. But it’s EXTREMELY important to read the labels on baby sunscreen before applying it to pets. No sunscreen containing ZINC OXIDE or PABA should ever be used on a pet.  They may lick their skin and accidentally ingest these toxic ingredients in the sunscreen.

If a dog has to be outdoors during peak sun exposure hours (10 am to 4 pm),  sunscreen should be reapplied to sun-sensitive areas of the body: around the top of the muzzle near the nose, around the lips, the tips of the ears, the underside of the chest and belly periodically throughout the day. Also, if the dog has gone swimming, or gotten wet, the sunscreen should be immediately reapplied as in humans.

Fresh Water and Shady Spots

Dogs can also experience heat stroke in hot weather. Making sure your dog has access to water and shade is an essential part of keeping your pet safe on hot days.

Also, never leave a dog in direct sunlight unsupervised and never leave a dog enclosed in a car in temperatures greater than 60 degrees even with windows partly open.

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