It’s likely you’re protecting yourself and your human family from the sun’s harmful UV rays during the summer, but what about your dog?

You may be surprised to learn that dogs need protection, too. Dogs naturally have protection from their fur, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be burned. Those sunburns can be painful, and they can also increase your dog’s risk of cancer.

So when should your dog use sunscreen?

Your dog is losing hair
If your dog is suffering from allergies, coping with hormonal changes, or undergoing chemotherapy, he may be losing a lot of hair, leaving areas without protection. Also, some dogs, such as hairless Chinese Crested, naturally have bald spots. These areas are vulnerable like human skin, so they need protection.

Your dog is a sunbathing enthusiast
If you have one, you know. These pups love enjoying the warmth of the sun’s rays — and may do so to their own detriment. The areas that need protection include the space between their back legs and their snout (if it’s pinkish).

Your dog will be spending a lot of time outdoors
If it’s just a quick walk around the block, your dog is probably fine, but if you’re heading out for a day at the beach or a camping trip, then your dog needs extra protection, just like you do.

How to protect your dog from the sun

Ready to give your dog a coat of sunscreen? Here are a few best practices and safety tips to keep in mind.

Don’t shave your long-haired dog
That hair is protecting their skin from UV rays, and if they’re shaved, it leaves them more exposed. Instead, you can help keep them cooler by using an undercoat rake regularly to get rid of dead hairs.

Choose the right sunscreen
Search for sunscreens that are designed specifically for dogs, and consult your veterinarian for recommendations. If you’re having trouble finding a canine-specific sunscreen, look for one that’s safe for human babies or sensitive skin.

Avoid Zinc Oxide
It’s a common ingredient in sunscreen, but unfortunately it can be toxic to dogs if they eat it because of the zinc. Check the label before you apply.

Do a test area

Even if you select a sunscreen you believe is safe, there’s a chance your dog may have a reaction to it.  Put the sunscreen on a small area, and keep an eye on the skin as well as your dog’s behavior to see if there’s any problem.

Just apply it to exposed areas
You don’t need to cover your dog all over, just in the areas that will be exposed to the sun. Dog hair doesn’t need protection.

Use sun protective clothing
If your dog has a reaction to sunscreen, an alternative is light clothing designed to block the sun’s rays. Look for lighter colors as well to help keep your dog cool.

Provide shade
Make sure your dog has a place to escape the sun’s rays in your backyard or in any other outdoor location where she spends time. The best way to stay safe from UV rays is to avoid them entirely.

Remember, it’s also important to keep your dog safe from the heat. Make sure your pup always has access to fresh water.

Does your dog enjoy going to the beach? Is she a swimmer? Tell us all about it in the comments.

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