NEW YORK — The dog days of summer are here and plenty of pet owners are soaking up the sun with their furry friends. However, while many people remember to put sunscreen on their own skin, a new poll finds most don’t realize their pet could use some too!
In a survey of 2,000 dog owners, 46 percent didn’t know their furry pet needs sun protection. Another 55 percent were unaware that a sunburn is just as harmful to a dog’s skin as it is for people. Seven in 10 people admit they have no idea how much sunscreen to put on a dog.
With few people even knowing about pet sunscreen needs, even fewer regularly protect their pups when they go outside. In fact, 57 percent say they never apply sunscreen to their dog when they go for a walk. Four in 10 think using human sunscreen is fine, but researchers say these products often contain chemicals which may be toxic to animals.
Where should pet owners apply sunscreen?
“Fur is a really great natural sun protector. But there are areas where they won’t have a lot of fur, and those are the key hotspots we worry about, like their ears and the tip of their nose,” says Dr. Anna Ewers Clark, veterinary research and standards lead at pet charity Blue Cross, in a statement.
“A lot of dogs’ bellies are sparsely furred. If you have a pet who has a light, very thin coat they are a lot more sensitive to sun damage,” the veterinarian adds. “Plenty of dogs will naturally avoid the sun but not all of them. One of the biggest problems we see is with dogs who like to sunbathe. People love to see their pets lying out in the sun, they think it’s so cute. But even if it’s not a hot day, we know that temperature isn’t always linked to UV damage.”
“If you go walking with your dog and take them to the beach, along cliff tops or even up mountains you don’t often feel the heat from the sun because you have a nice breeze,” Clark explains. “But the reflection off the waves and being higher up can make that risk higher. There is often not a lot of shade so your pet is forced to be out in the sun all day which they may love if they’re having a great day running around, but you don’t want them coming back with sunburn.”
‘Pet-safe sunscreen is the best way forward’
The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of hotel booking platform hoo, found that only one in five pet owners (21%) make sure their pup always wears sunscreen when going outside.
However, younger dog owners appear to be much more in tune with their pup’s SPF needs. Two in three Gen Z dog owners say they know their furry friend should have sunscreen on their sun-sensitive areas. One in three claim that, although they’re just finding out about this, they’ll apply it all the time now.
However, experts note it’s still important to use the right kind of sun protection.
“Human sunscreen has a number of additives in them and fragrances which can be an irritant to dogs’ skin, so using a pet-safe sunscreen is the best way forward,” Dr. Clark adds. “Make sure you are applying that before going into the sunshine – ideally 15 minutes before giving it a chance to soak in.”
“If you’re using SPF 30 on your dog, reapply every 30 to 45 minutes. It’s very difficult to over apply it so if in doubt, put on another layer,” the vet explains. “The minimum safe SPF for dogs is 30. But with any new cream, test it on your dog before you need it.”
“One of the things with pets which we don’t have to think about so much with people is making sure they don’t lick it straight off. I sometimes recommend that if you have a dog that quite likes a treat or a puzzle feeder, put sunscreen on them and give them the puzzle feeder to distract them for a few minutes while it soaks in because otherwise it will lick it straight off.”
“Reapplication is important so take it with you,” Dr. Clark concludes. “When you’re putting some on yourself and think it’s getting a bit warm and has been a while since I’ve put it on, make sure you put it on for your pet as well.”