Sunscreen for Pets? Yes! How to Protect Them from the Sun

Summer anthems come and go — so long, Despacito! — but some of the best advice we ever got came to us in the 1990s and still resonates: wear sunscreen. 


The sun’s rays are not only harmful to you, but they can also damage the delicate skin of our pets. 


“The ones who are going to be more prone to it are animals with a lot of white — white unpigmented hair and white skin or pink skin,” says Dr. Noel Radwanski of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, who is board-certified in veterinary dermatology. 


While covering up can be hard for our furry friends, certain types of sunscreen can be used to protect vulnerable areas of their body  — but ultimately, as is the case for humans, staying out of the sun is recommended.


“In general, the best thing to do is to keep your pets indoors in the peak sunlight hours,” Radwanski says. “Let them out earlier in the morning or late in the afternoon, but give them minimal exposure in the peak sunlight hours.”


Read on for more information and tips from Radwanski about how to protect your pets from the sun’s harmful rays. 


Sun damage for pets is real but rare. For the most part, a pet’s fur protects them from the sun but, just like humans, they can get sunburn. Radwanski says the most at-risk parts of their bodies are the nose, inside of their ears or tips of their ears and possibly their bellies. “Dogs and cats can get actinic or solar dermatitis, which is damage to the skin caused by UV rays. It is not very common,” says Radwanski. 


Apply sunscreen to vulnerable animals. As mentioned above, dogs and cats with a lot of white fur, white skin or pink skin, are more likely to get sunburn and one way of preventing that is to apply sunscreen. If the idea is daunting, Radwanski recommends trying a sunscreen stick. She also says “baby sunscreen,” which is usually zinc oxide-based, is what you need to use. You might also shop around for sunscreens specifically designed for dogs.


Window-loving cats are even at risk. If you think your indoor kitty is safe inside, think again. “For example a white indoor house cat that lays in front of the window can get UV damage,” Radwanski  says. “You’ll see it on the inner parts of their ear tips or on their nose.” For felines who like their window seat, we found UV-blocking window film available on Amazon.


Be aware of growths on your pet’s skin. Just as you check your own skin for unusual marks or growths, do the same for your pets. Some dogs and cats have wart-like growths caused by a papilloma virus, Radwanski explains. These growths are not cancerous and they are not caused by the sun but exposure to UV rays can in some cases transform the warts into precancerous or cancerous growths. “Papilloma virus can transform into a type of skin cancer typically induced by UV exposure,” she says. Always see a veterinarian when you notice new or changing growths on your pets.


Sunny days can be dangerous in more ways than one. As much as sun worshippers hate to admit it, the sun is more foe than friend — whether you’re two-legged or four-legged. Keep your pets out of the sun at the hottest and sunniest times of the day is just a good idea since heat exhaustion can be deadly to dogs, Radwanski warns, and dogs are actually more at risk on hot days than humans. To learn more, visit Blue Pearl’s website. 


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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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