Image Credit: Claudia Bensimoun
Whether out for a walk with your dog or a quick swim at the dog beach, your dog will be exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Dogs have sensitive skin, and if exposed to more than thirty minutes of sun can get sunburnt.
Dogs and the people who love them all benefit from sunscreen use, but are all canine sunscreens safe to use?
Research shows that dogs are just as prone to getting skin cancer as humans. One third of all dog tumors are sun related. In dogs, sunburn can appear as red skin or even hair loss. All dogs can get skin cancer. It is the most common type of cancer in dogs, and mast cell tumors are among the most common skin cancers. Although Golden Retrievers have an increased risk of mast cell tumors compared to other breeds, skin cancer occurs relatively often in all breeds of dogs. Some breeds however are more prone to skin cancer, especially if they have light colored skin or pink noses.
Mast Cell Tumors
Because mast cells induce itching, swelling and redness, mast cell tumors may be red, itchy and periodically swell up and then disappear.
Melanomas occur frequently in dogs. Melanomas of the haired skin in dogs are normally benign, yet the ones in the mouth, gums, nails, and toes are the ones to look out for.
Who Needs Sunscreens?
While most dogs have fur that acts as a natural sunscreen, frequent sun exposure will eventually take its toll.
In dogs, sunburn can appear as red skin or even hair loss “Most dogs have pigmented skin. White dogs have pink skin, but most of it is protected from the sun by fur. Skin cancer from excess exposure to the sun most often occurs in two places: the noses of white dogs or dogs with pink noses or white markings on the top of the muzzle, and on the ears,” says Dr.Nancy Scanlan, DVM.AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association)
All working dogs and dogs that are subjected to lots of sun exposure during family activities such as boating and hiking need to use a sunscreen. Dogs that have been clipped and all hairless breeds should be kept out of the sun. Breeds such as terriers, Spaniels, Chihuahua, Doberman pinscher and other shorthaired breeds, as well as all breeds with white skin and pink skin are at high risk for sunburn.
What many of us need to know is that a sunscreen doesn’t need to contain any unhealthy synthetic or chemical sun filters, yet many do. Some veterinarians recommend using a children’s sunscreen that contains avobenzone, also called Parsol 1789.This is safer than using a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide because any ingestion could lead to hemolytic anemia in pets.
Never use a sunscreen that contains PABA, as this can be fatal if licked off. Parsol 1789 contains a UVA blocker, and octisate, which blocks UVB rays. Epi-Pet’s Sun Protector sunscreen is formulated especially for dogs and is fragrance free. Epi-pet worked together with the FDA to ensure that their sunscreen meets the ingredient stability requirements for pet sunscreens. They also added tocopheryl, a well-known antioxidant that promotes healing for burned or damaged skin.
Dr.Douglas H.Thamm recommends using the UV blocking sun shirts for dogs. “Sunscreen is not recommended for the prevention of skin cancer in dogs. It is all licked off after application, and toxicity after oral ingestion has not been well studied. Behavior modification such as keeping dogs out of the sun is the best preventative .UV blocking shirts and suits for dogs is a good alternative as well,” says Dr.Douglas Thamm.VMD, DACVIM.Oncology and Director of Clinical Research at the Colorado State University.
The Animal Cancer Center (ACC) at Colorado State University goes beyond the standard allopathic chemotherapy, radiation and surgery treatments for canine cancer. They are taking a holistic approach to cancer therapy and are dedicated to the scientific study and application of natural cancer therapies and treatments.
Dogs are increasingly taking part in our active, outdoor lifestyles and this means that they are getting exposed to more UV rays. Lightweight sun shirts are great for outdoor activities like swimming and boating and will keep your dog’s coat cool throughout the day.
“The nose is a more common area than the ears, and some owners do use sunscreen there. Short- coated dogs, which enjoy sunbathing while lying upside down in the sun can also get skin cancer. It is impossible to use sunscreen on the nose itself because dogs will lick it off almost immediately. The top of the muzzle and the ears are easier to treat,” says Dr.Nancy Scanlan.Dogs with a short or thin coat are most prone to sunburn.
Use a pet sunscreen that is formulated especially for dogs. Petkin has developed a range of canine-friendly sunscreens which prevent sunburn and carry a UV-fighting strength equivalent to a human sunscreen of factor 15.The three- piece sunblock range includes sun wipes, a sun stick for vulnerable eras like the muzzle, nose and ears, as well as a sun mist. This can be sprayed anywhere on your dog’s body. Products like Solar Rx are also recommended. This is an everyday moisturizing SPF 30.
Sunscreens such as Aubrey Organics Green Tea Sunblock for children with SPF 25 and Jason Kids’ Block with SPF 46 come highly recommended. The Natural Dog Snout Soother (SPF 10), which contains shea butter, kukui nut oil, and vitamin E offers snout sunburn protection and relief. Nutri-Vet’s Sun Defense spray for dogs is also an easy and excellent way to protect your dogs from sunburn.
Set aside a block of time every day, perhaps early morning and late afternoon, when it’s not so hot to take your dogs out for that fun stroll or swim. Change your dog’s exercise routine during the hot summer months and consider taking him to an indoor dog park. Keeping your dogs out of the sun can also help prevent sunburn and skin cancer.
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