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Summertime Skin Care for Pets: Protecting Your Pet from Sun


The sun is particularly harmful to pets living in the Northwestern part of the United States (especially WA, OR, ID, MT, WY and UT). These areas have the highest incidence in skin cancer both in pets and people.

Our pets are subject to a host of maladies, but one of the most common, and least talked about, is skin cancer. Mast cell skin cancer is the most common skin cancer in pets and it can show up anywhere on the body.

According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, “Melanoma occurs commonly in dogs with pigmented (dark) skin. Melanomas arise from pigment producing cells called melanocytes, which are responsible for coloring the skin.”

Dogs that are at an increased risk to develop melanoma (suggesting that this disease may have a hereditary component) include:

~ Gordon Setters
~ Standard and Miniature Schnauzers
~ Doberman Pinschers
~ Scottish terriers

Melanomas can occur in areas of haired skin, where they usually form small, dark (brown to black) lumps, but can also appear as large, flat, wrinkled masses. Melanoma of the haired skin in dogs is usually a benign tumor, although it can cause severe discomfort.

In contrast, malignant melanoma, which develops in the mouth or in the distal limbs (usually the toenail beds), is an incurable disease.

Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats get fewer cancers.


But, don’t worry. We have some ways you can help protect your pet from the harmful rays of the sun…

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Provide Sunblock[/heading]

Many dogs, believe it or not, need to have sunscreen applied to their more sensitive areas. Particularly if they spend a lot of time lounging in the sun. Their sensitive, and hairless, bellies can be exposed to dangerous sun rays. Why does your pet need sunscreen?

Natural Dog Company
  • To prevent sunburn, which can happen to light-skinned and thin-haired pets (be sure to apply to the tops of noses!)
  • Reduces exposure to UVA and UVB sun rays

Sunscreens developed for use on humans can be toxic to pets – so never try to place sunblock on your pet unless it’s specifically designed for pets. Avoid any product with Octyl Salicylate, Homosalate, or Ethylhexyl Salicylate (these are commonly found in many sunscreens).

[note type=”success” icon=”yes”]For the tips of ears and noses, you use Titanium Dioxide which physically blocks harmful rays rather than relying on chemicals to block rays. You will need to be very cautious if you have other pets, or if you apply it to an area that your pet can reach, as it can be harmful if licked.[/note]

Rather, it’s best to stay with suncscreen specifically developed for pets. These include:

  • Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets (safe for dogs): Epi-Pet Sunscreen is the only sunscreen in the pet industry that meets the FDA’s ingredient testing standards as required by the FDA for such a product to be legal. Human sunscreens are not formulated nor are they prepared to be compatible with the skin of pets. The Epi-Pet Sun Protector Sunscreen is safe if licked once it is applied to your dog (but should not be used on cats).

  • Virbac Pet Guard Gel with Sunscreen (safe for dogs and cats): This combination insecticide and repellent with sunscreen is designed to protect dogs and cats from flies, mosquitoes and gnats.
  • Doggles Pet Sunscreen (safe for dogs and cats): This SPF15 sunscreen is safe for pets, but keep it in areas that can’t be licked when using on cats. It is water soluble and great for light skinned dogs, but be sure to apply frequently when you’re out on the lake!

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Brush Daily[/heading]

Dogs and cats with longer coats, or double coats, should not be shaved (contrary to popular belief). Doing so can actually make them hotter during the summer months, as their coats offer protection from both heat and cold.

Instead of shaving your pet, brush your dog and cat regularly.

Corn starch sprinkled on mats can help you more easily dislodge them, and will result in less stress for your pet. We can’t recommend the FURminator line of products enough. These deshedding tools are expensive, but oh – so worth the expense (and they last forever!).

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Water Doggles[/heading]

Doggles Originalz are dog-specific goggles that protect the eyes from a host of problems caused from being in the sun. Doggles offer 100% UV protection, shatter-proof lenses, and anti-fog treatment on the inside of the lenses.  Lenses on the ILS style are interchangeable and replaceable.  This style is suited to all dog head shapes and sizes.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Shade is Critical![/heading]

This seems like an obvious statement, but to many pet parents, it’s not. Your dog and cat should always access to shade – even if they choose not to always use it. Sun stroke can cause severe damage to pets, and often results in death.

One of our favorite way to quickly create shade wherever we are on any given day is with the QuikShade Beds for Pets. These are easily stored, carried and set up no matter where you are (it’s a great way to handle the beach because it keeps them off the sand and helps them stay cooler by allowing air to circulate beneath them).


[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Use Natural Shampoos[/heading]

As you well know, we are rabid fans of DERMagic’s Organic Shampoo Bar. Their skin bar is one of the gentlest ways you can bathe your pet. While you really should try to avoid giving your dogs and cats frequent baths, doing so will help eliminate dandruff and other skin conditions.

Stay with shampoos that are paraben-free and do not contain any lauryl/laureth sulfates.

Our favorites also include Earthbath Puppy Wipes and SpritzGerrard Larriett, and Epi-Pet skin treatments.

Have a fun summer and be careful while you’re Boating with Pets!

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