Home Tips & Trends Summer Wait – Does Your Dog Need Sunscreen, Too?

Wait – Does Your Dog Need Sunscreen, Too?

Yep, according to a vet, dogs can indeed get sunburn and skin cancer, too. Here's what you need to know.

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We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen…but what about our pets? Maybe the most neglected preventative medical treatment (and least known public awareness for pet health care) is the regular use of sunscreen to protect the pet from solar dermatitis and skin cancer, says Dr. Michael Fleck, DVM, host of The Pet-Buzz and founder of Epi-Pet.

He says pet sun protection should be discussed in the same conversation with other preventative medical programs like animal vaccines, heartworm testing and preventatives such as flea & tick prevention, dental and oral care.  Below, Dr. Fleck walks us through everything we need to know to ensure our BFF’s don’t get burned.

Does your dog need sunscreen, too?

Your dog needs sunscreen as you do to protect against deadly UVA and UVB sunrays. The canine’s coat and dark pigmentation help shield some dangerous sunrays, but the more intense UVB sunrays have the ability to penetrate coat and skin pigment, resulting in sunburn, premature skin aging and skin cancer. The canine’s most susceptible to excessive sunrays are the short hair, pink and white skin, and some breeds like boxers and Doberman pinchers, however all breeds have some degree or susceptibility. No human deeply covered with body hair with white, black or brown skin ca avoid sun damage without sunscreen application. Thick coated and multicolored canines are equally susceptible to sun damage and also require sunscreen protection. Sunrays, therefore, are an equal opportunity influencer for skin damage in all.

Dogs need sunscreen just like people to protect against excessive and penetrating sunrays.

It is just as import for us to protect dogs against excessive penetrating sunrays as we do people. Dogs experience sunburn, premature skin again and skin cancer, similar to people when exposed to the sun. Sunscreen is considered to be a drug by the FDA and must meet critical standards to be authorized to be used on humans and/or pets. There are many brands of human sunscreen authorized by the FDA for use on humans, exclusively. However, only one brand of sunscreen, Epi-Pet Sunscreen, is effective and safe and is the ONLY pet sunscreen authorized by the FDA to be used on dogs and horses.

Can your dog get a sunburn ? 

Dogs get sunburn and skin cancer with the same degree experienced by people. Repeated sunburns age the skin creating pre-existing skin conditions leading to permanent dermatitis and over time, deadly skin cancer. Both, sunburn and skin cancer require medical attention by your veterinarian.

How do you know if your dog has a sun burn and how to treat?

Sunburned skin on the canine will be dark black or red, thickened, painful to the touch and often having puss with sores. Treatment includes topical, anti-inflammatory shampoos and skin sprays, antibiotics, and pain killers. Avoidance of sun exposure until recovered is essential. Skin cancers are elevated growths on the skin or face and require surgical removal followed occasionally by chemo and/or radiation therapy.

Is sunscreen a must?

Sunscreen is a must for humans and for pets. Because of the high incidence of pet sunburn and skin cancer caused by the excesses of sun, regular use of sunscreen on a daily basis is as important as other preventative programs including vaccines, parasite protection and dental and oral care. The deadliest skin cancer in humans is a melanoma and is causes by the excess sun and can be fatal if untreated. There are at least three malignant skin cancers in pets caused by excess sun: squamous cell, basal cell and hemangiosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma mimics melanoma in humans and is deadly for the pet if untreated.  The frequency of these pet cancers occurs as frequently as seen in humans. Emphasizing sunscreen use for pets should receive the same importance as in human. How many pet lives can be saved?

Tips, tricks, and product suggestions on how and when to apply.

Topical sunscreen should be applied daily to your pet. Epi-Pet Canine Sunscreen ($17.95) is safe and effective, and the only pet sunscreen authorized by the FDA for use only on pets. It is in an environmentally friendly spray bottle. All canines like humans should use sunscreen protection daily, but some dogs require more attention than others, such as short hair, pink and white skin and some sensitive breeds like boxers and Dobermans. A nice rule of thumb is if your dog has a pink or irritated muzzle it is already becoming sunburn and required sunscreen protection, at least once daily. Although the entire dog should be covered with sunscreen product, at the very least, the face, muzzle and ears and underbelly should be covered. If walking on the beach, on sidewalks or hard surfaces, swimming or out in the sun for extended time, sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours.

Epi-Pet Vanilla Scented, non-oily, sunscreen comes in a sport spray bottle and can be sprayed on the pet in any direction. Remember to hand rub product on face and muzzle and do not spray on face or muzzle. 


Dr. Michael Fleck has frequently appeared on TV and on radio. He lectures primarily on the topic of skin and ear care for the companion animals. Additionally, Fleck has written pet health articles for a variety of publications.


As a practicing veterinary for 40 years, Dr. Fleck has owned and operated veterinary practices in Michigan, Florida and Guam. He is the Founder and Medical Director of the Animal Medical Center of Bradenton, located in Bradenton, Florida, focusing on small animals. As a petrepreneur, his newest venture is The Pet Vet Discount veterinary clinics in Bradenton and Miami, Florida. He earned a Bachelor of Science and a degree in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University. Additionally, he has a Masters Degree in Reproductive Physiology from Western Michigan University. In 2005, Dr. Fleck founded Epiderma Pet which has developed high performance pet skin, ear care and other products under the trademark name, Epi-Pet.

Dr. Fleck is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the veterinary medical associations of California, Michigan and Florida. Fleck is a co-host of The Pet Buzz.



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Janene Mascarella