Finding A Safe Sunscreen for Dogs

Sunscreen for Dogs

Overview

If you live in a place where it is mostly hot and sunny in the summer, you need to protect your dog from getting sunburned. One easy way to do so is to apply a sunscreen on your dog.

The bad news is, not all sunscreens are safe to use.

According to a 2009 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group on 1,606 sunscreens for humans, 3 out of 5 brand-name sunscreens either do not protect the skin from sun damage, or contain chemicals harmful to our skin, or both!

If so many sunscreens for people are not safe for use, how safe are the sunscreens that are specifically made for dogs?

After some research, I have collected information on sunscreen for dogs most commonly found in pet shops, drugstores, and online. You may be surprised to see the results below.

An Evaluation of Sunscreens for Dogs

I have looked at several common brands of sunscreen for dogs and tried to find out the ingredients in each brand. As you will see, some products list only the main ingredients and there is no way to find out if those products contain any other ingredients that are unsafe.

For each ingredient listed on a product, I have checked the Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" Database for safety.

In that database, each ingredient is given a "hazard score" on a 0-10 scale (0-2 low hazard; 3-6 moderate hazard; 7-10 high hazard), so if an ingredient has a score of 8, it means it is definitely not safe for use on people and by extension on our dogs.

Here are the dog sunscreens that I have looked at - click on each sunscreen to see the results:

  • Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray

    Ingredients: Benzophenone-3 (score 8); Ethylhexl Methoxycinnamate (score 4); Homosalate (score 4); Octyl Salicylate (score 3); Ethylhexl Salicylate (score 3); C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (score 1); Octylacrylamide Copolymer (score 0)

    Comments: Ironically, this sunscreen is said to be "the first pet sunscreen that is compliant with U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards." However, one of its ingredients, Benzophenone-3, has a high-hazard score. Other ingredients are causes for concern as well. In addition, it is a spray which increases the possibility of dogs inhaling the spray particles. Definitely not a safe sunscreen for dogs!

  • Doggles Pets Sunscreen

    Ingredients (Not All Ingredients Listed): Octyl Methoxycinnamate (score 4); DMDM Hydantoin (score 9)

    Comments: This product does not have all of its ingredients listed, but the two main ingredients have a moderate and high hazard score, respectively. It is also an inhalable spray. A definite no no!

  • Nutri-Vet Sun Defense Lotion for Dogs

    Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (score 1 to 5 depending on product usage); Dimethicone (score 2), Polysobate20 (score 1), Propylene Glycol (score 5), Polyacrylamide (score 2), Isoparaffin (score 1), Triethanolamine (score 7), Imidurea (score 7), Methyl Paraben (score 8), Propyl Paraben (score 4)

    Comments: This sunscreen for dogs has titanium dioxide as its main ingredient. Titanium dioxide is considered safe especially when not used in an easily inhalable spray. However, this product does contain questionable ingredients such as Methyl Paraben, Imidurea, and Triethanolamine. I would hesitate to use it on my dog.

  • Nutri-Vet Sun Defense Spray for Dogs

    Ingredients: same as Nutri-Vet Sun Defense Lotion

    Comments: I would hesitate even more to use this on my dog because it is a spray.

  • VetOne UVet Sunscreen Lotion

    Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (score 1 to 5 depending on product usage); Octyl Methoxycinnamate (score 4); Triethanolamine (score 7); Imidurea (score 7)

    Comments: This sunscreen for dogs has titanium dioxide as its main ingredient. Titanium dioxide is considered safe especially when not used in an easily inhalable spray. However, this product does contain questionable ingredients such as Octyl Methoxycinnamate, Imidurea, and Triethanolamine. I would hesitate to use it on my dog.

  • VetOne UVet Sunscreen Spray

    Ingredients: same as VetOne UVet Sunscreen Lotion above

    Comments: I would hesitate even more to use this on my dog because it is a spray.

  • Veterinarian's Best Sun Spray Sunscreen with Aloe Vera

    Ingredients (Only Main Ingredients Listed): Titanium Dioxide (score 1 to 5 depending on product usage); Zinc Oxide (1 to 4 depending on product usage); Aloe Vera (score 0)

    Comments: One of the main ingredients is zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs if ingested in large amounts. Also, it is an inhalable spray. I would not use it on my dog.

  • My Dog Nose It

    Active Ingredients: Octinoxate (score 6); Oxybenzone (score 8)

    Comments: This product is touted as "revolutionary", "completely natural", and "non-toxic" on the company's website. However, a look at the two active ingredients suggests otherwise. Oxybenzone can readily be absorbed into the skin and it acts like estrogen in the body, which has been found to change sperm production in animals. Oxybenzone can also cause skin allergies. Octinoxate can also cause skin allergies (though not at as high a rate as Oxybenzone), and it may interfere with thyroid functions in animals. I wouldn't use it on my dog.

  • Petkin Doggy Sunstick

    Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (score 1 to 5 depending on product usage)

    Comments: This product comes in a roll-on container. It's easy to apply and dogs seem to like the smell. The active ingredient is titanium dioxide. Unfortunately, a look at the inactive ingredients makes me hesitate to recommend it because it contains propylparaben (score 7) and methylparaben (score 4). As you probably know, parabens mimic the hormone estrogen, and can potentially wreak havoc to the endocrine system.

  • Petkin Doggy Sunmist

    Active Ingredients: Octinoxate (score 6); Octisalate (score 4); Oxybenzone (score 8)

    Comments: Two out of the three active ingredients (Oxybenzone and Octinoxate) are not exactly safe for dogs (and people). Also, it is a spray. So... need I say more?

Sunscreen for Dogs - The Last Verdict

Sunscreen for Dogs As you can see from the evaluation above, there does not seem to be a single sunscreen product that is truly safe for our dogs!

You may wonder if I am overly cautious about the safety of these products. However, dogs are more vulnerable than people in that they have smaller bodies, so even small amounts of toxins can wreak great havoc on their health.

In addition, dogs tend to lick whatever is put on their bodies, making it much easier for them to ingest the toxins.

A "Holistic" Way of Preventing Sunburn in Dogs

So what can we do to protect our dogs from getting sunburned?

Instead of relying on a doggie sunscreen product, we may have to do several things to protect our dogs from the sun.

First, let's make our own doggie sunscreen that is safe. Here is a "sunscreen recipe" (from earthremedy.org). Give it a try:

Mix these ingredients together:

  • 1/2 cup of 100% pure organic aloe gel
  • 20 drops pure raspberry seed oil
  • 5 tbsp coconut oil (in its thick form)
  • 3 capsules of vitamin E oil (break open the capsules)
  • 5 drops of lavender oil.

Note that while the above sunscreen can protect our dogs from some UV rays, it's not 100% and we shouldn't rely on this sunscreen only.

That means, in addition to using the sunscreen, we should limit the time that our dogs are being exposed to the sun, and provide our dogs some shade to rest after playing in the sun.

It is also advisable to totally avoid the sun when it is the hottest (e.g. between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).

Finally, we can look into purchasing one of those sun shield protective t-shirts for dogs. Some of them claim the shirts can block over 98% of UV rays.

While individually, these measures may not be 100% "sunburn proof", but together they could work well. Most importantly, they are safer for our dogs!

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