dog sunscreen

6 Pooch-Approved Dog Sunscreens to Try This Summer

Soak up the sun safely with these pet-safe sun protection products.
By Hilary Braaksma
April 21, 2021
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We all know the value of using SPF and other forms of sun protection for ourselves in the summer, but what about our dogs? If you're planning to spend a lot of time in the sunshine with your four-legged friend this summer, especially if your pooch has a short, light coat or spends a lot of time outdoors, dog sunscreen is a good idea.

If you've never used sunscreen for your dogs (or even if you have), it's helpful to brush up on some advice from the pros first. That includes choosing the best dog sunscreen, learning how to use it effectively, and researching which brands and products are worth investing in. Dr. Laura Pletz, DVM and scientific services manager for Royal Canin, shares her expert advice on how to find (and correctly use!) the right doggie sunblock for your pup.

Can Dogs Get Sunburn?

First things first—yes, your pooch can suffer sunburn. Just like ours, a dog's skin can burn with prolonged, unprotected sun exposure. And like humans, the consequences of sun exposure don't end just with a painful sunburn: Dogs are also susceptible to longterm health risks like certain types of skin cancer.

"Dogs can suffer sunburns just like us with prolonged sun exposure," Pletz says. "White dogs with short hair are at most risk, but all can be susceptible."

Other dogs at risk for sunburn include hairless breeds like the Chinese crested, xoloitzcuintli, and American hairless terrier. Canines who have short, light-colored coats and lightly pigmented eyelids and noses—like bulldogs, Australian shepherds, and whippets—can also be at higher risk than other hounds. 

How Do You Put Sunscreen on Dogs?

Luckily, the brains behind dog sunscreen brands have put in most of the work here. It can seem complicated and messy to coat your canine in sunscreen, but spray-on formulas and pet-friendly balms make it easy to keep your pooch covered.

As you apply your dog's sunscreen, you'll want to pay special attention to their ears, nose, the area around the lips, groin, inner thighs, belly, and any other areas where pigmentation is light. If your dog is one of the aforementioned breeds with short, fine coats, it's best to take an all-over approach to sunscreen application.

"Use a sunscreen formulated for dogs and avoid sunscreens with zinc oxide," Pletz says. "It can be difficult to apply topicals to dogs due to their propensity to lick, so I always recommend that pet owners use the first 10—15 minutes after application to play with them to provide a distraction while the sunscreen is absorbed."

If you use a spray formula, be sure to cover your dog's eyes during application. Likewise, be careful when applying balms or cream formulas near your dog's eyes. Only use formulas designed specifically for dogs—never try to use human sunscreen on your pet.

How Else Can I Protect My Dog in the Sun?

Similar to your dermatologist's recommendation for protecting human skin, Pletz says the most effective way to avoid sun damage is to minimize the time your dog is exposed to the sun during peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. According to Pletz, "Prolonged outdoor playtime is best when the sun isn't so intense for both you and your pet."

The Best Dog Sunscreen

We researched several brands of pet-friendly sunscreen to help you narrow down your search. Here are our picks for sun protectants that'll help keep Fido safe from sunburn all summer long.

Epi-Pet sun protector spray pets
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Best Overall: Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets

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If you’re looking for SPF coverage, ease of application, and a pleasant fragrance, you can’t beat Epi-Pet’s sunscreen spray for pets. The FDA-compliant formula has the equivalent of SPF 30 and is designed to be used on dogs and horses. This sunscreen spray for dogs protects against UVA and UVB rays, has a light vanilla scent, and dries quickly.

Shop now: Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets, $18; amazon.com

Petkin doggy sun stick
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Best Stick: Petkin SPF 15 Doggy Sun Stick

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This convenient dog sunscreen stick from Petkin makes it easy to reapply sunscreen on your pup wherever you go. To apply, simply rub the stick formula on parts of your pet that are susceptible to sun damage. The non-greasy formula has SPF 15 protection and the perfect size for keeping in your bag, car, or coat pocket.

Shop now: Petkin SPF 15 Doggy Sun Stick, $8; chewy.com

My dog nose it sun protection balm
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Best Balm: My Dog Nose It! Sun Protection Balm

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This sun-protecting balm for dogs doesn’t contain SPF, and instead relies on natural ingredients like Carnauba wax to help prevent sun burns and irritation on your dog’s sensitive skin. Happy reviewers say this product is perfect for keeping your pooch’s nose from turning red during long play days at the pool.  

Shop now: My Dog Nose It! Sun Protection Balm, $13; chewy.com

warren london dog sunscreen spray
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Best Moisturizing: Warren London Dog Sunscreen Spray

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This spray’s secret ingredient is aloe vera, which helps to moisturize your pup’s skin, protect against sunburn, and soothe existing sunburn. The non-toxic and non-oily formula nourishes your dog’s skin and coat without leaving behind greasy residue. Happy reviewers say their pets stay protected and their coats feel soft and smooth.

Shop now: Warren London Dog Sunscreen Spray, $14; chewy.com

sit stay forever sunscreen
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Best Organic: SIT. STAY. FOREVER. Organic Sunscreen & Moisturizer for Dogs and Cats

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The SPF protection in this organic sunscreen and moisturizer for dogs comes from natural oils like coconut oil, red raspberry oil, and carrot oil. The waterproof formula is great for splashing around in the water—but the oil-based formula does liquify in the heat, so remember not to leave it in the sun or a hot car.

Shop now: SIT. STAY. FOREVER. Organic Sunscreen & Moisturizer for Dogs and Cats, $15; amazon.com

shed defender dog onesie
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Best Clothing Protection: Shed Defender

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The Shed Defender is primarily designed to help keep loose shed hairs from getting everywhere, but it also offers UV protection when worn as a sunsuit for dogs. This sunsuit is best used for sunny, cool days—never use it in high temperatures when your dog could get overheated, and check regularly to make sure they’re comfortable when wearing.

Shop now: Shed Defender, $40; amazon.com