Human beings are accustomed to taking certain measures to protect themselves when spending time in the sun. Applying and reapplying sunscreen, avoiding the outdoors during certain times of the day and drinking plenty of water while outside are just a few of the ways people can safely soak up summer sun. But what about dogs? Should dog owners be equally protective of their four-legged friends before letting them run around in the backyard or fraternize with fellow canines at the nearest dog park?

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs can get sunburned just like their human counterparts. In addition, the AKC notes that sunburn can make dogs more vulnerable to certain types of skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanomas and hemangiomas. Sunburn also can exacerbate preexisting conditions like autoimmune disorders and dermatitis.

Some dogs may be especially vulnerable

While no dog is immune to sunburn, some are more vulnerable than others. The AKC notes that hairless breeds like the American Hairless Terrier need sun protection whenever they will be outside for extended periods of time. In addition, dogs with white or thin coats and those with light-pigmented noses and eyelids also are especially vulnerable to sunburn. The AKC also says that dogs with thick coats of hair are not immune to sunburn, as many such dogs shed their coats during especially warm weather, thereby making them more vulnerable to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Dog owners can speak with their veterinarians to determine how vulnerable their dogs are to sunburn.

What dog owners can do

Dogs can benefit from sunscreen just like their owners. However, dog owners must only apply dog-specific sunscreens to their furry friends. The AKC advises dog owners to avoid applying sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid, or PABA, to their dogs, as these can be toxic when ingested. Ingestion is likely as dogs typically try to lick their skin after sunscreen has been applied, so dog owners must take this warning very seriously.

The AKC also recommends using waterproof sunscreens with a minimum sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30. Don’t just go all in.

Before applying sunscreen to a dog’s entire body, pick an area of its body to apply a small amount. Then wait a little while to see if the sunscreen causes an allergic reaction. If it does, wash the product off with water and do not allow the dog to spend ample time outdoors until you find a product that works and does not cause an allergic reaction.

If the dog is not allergic, apply the sunscreen about 20 minutes before going outside, keeping a watchful eye on your pooch to be sure he or she does not lick it off. Apply the product anywhere pigment is light, and also make sure to get vulnerable areas like the bridge of the nose, ear tips and the skin around the lips, groin and inner thighs. Reapply after the dog goes swimming, and also every four to six hours whether the dog has gone swimming or not.

Dogs are vulnerable to sunburn just like humans. Dog owners must protect their furry friends whenever spending time outdoors.