Summer is right around the corner and soon it will be time to slather ourselves in sunscreen and hope for the best. Did you know that dogs are just as much at risk for sunburn as humans? Dogs at the highest risk for sunburn are light skinned dogs, dogs with short hair, with little to no hair and dogs that spend a lot of time in the water (or soaking up the sun rays). In addition, a dog's nose, ears and underside are the most at risk for getting sunburned. Like humans, genetics and diet play a role in the susceptibility to sunburn. Some dogs are just more sensitive to the damaging effects of the sun. A lot of caring dog owners will use sunscreen on their dogs, but they should never use commercial sunscreen made for humans. Human sunscreen has a whole list of ingredients that are toxic to canines, including zinc oxide. Dogs lick themselves all the time and end up ingesting the toxic components of the sunscreen. For a list of toxic elements, please visit this website--> click here.
There are ways a dog owner can protect their furry friend through diet and natural oils, though! A diet with foods rich in Lycopene is our first measure of sun safety. Lycopene is a phytonutrient and antioxidant that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables and can offer a small bit of natural sunscreen when ingested. We cannot soley rely on just Lycopene rich vegetables for sun protection because when ingested, only a small part of the lycopene is absorbed into the skin. A dog owner can increase the absorption by also pairing the fruit/vegetable with a good source of fat, such as: Coconut oil, fish oil, olive oil, hemp seed oil and Flax oil.
When adding fruits and vegetable to a dog's diet, the owner should always remember the proper proportions for a canine: 56% to 60% protein, 25% to 30% fat and 11% to 14% appropriate carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables) to ensure optimal health. In addition, the pits in fruits and vegetables (example: apricot and mangoes) should always be removed before feeding to your furry friend. Pits can cause intestinal obstructions that often end up either really costly or deadly.
The second measure to sun safety is to select an oil that has a natural SPF in it and use it instead of commercial sunscreen. These oils are (and I've included the SPF number alongside):
- Carrot Seed (30-38 SPF) which is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. It also has healing properties for skin issues. The only downside is that it has a slight orange tinge. Dog's with light hair may take on a carrot like hue from the oil dying the fur. 😋
- Red Raspberry Seed Oil (30-50 SPF) has an excellent level of Vitamin E for dogs with dry, irritated and inflamed skin.
You can also add essential oils to the above oils to add healing benefits. But, you should never add citrus essential oils! These are phototoxic and will cause burns! Lavender Essential oil has healing properties as well as a natural SPF of 6%. Always remember to dilute essential oils to a safe dog dilution (not human) and do not use on puppies less than 8 weeks old. In addition, make sure your oils are therapeutic grade! For more information on essential oil safety for canines, visit this link--> click here.
Finally, I am providing you a recipe to make your own dog friendly sunscreen! All the oils listed will also have their approximate naturally occurring SPF next to the name.
1/4 cup coconut oil (2-8 SPF)
1/4 cup Shea butter (2-8 SPF)
1/8 cup Wheat Germ Oil (or hazelnut oil) (15 SPF)
2 TBS of beeswax
1 Tsp of Red Raspberry Seed Oil (30-50 SPF)
1 Tsp of Carrot seed oil (30-38 SPF)
6 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (Optional) (6%)
Directions: Melt all the oils, except the Lavender Essential Oil, together on low in a sauce pan. Be sure not to over heat and bring to a boil. Once everything is melted, pour into a mason jar and add the essential oil and gently stir with a non-metal spoon. Allow to cool to a hardened state. That's it!
Additional links to get you started on your own research:
- Toxicology Case: How to Help Dog Owners Manage Zinc Toxosis, Samantha Wright, Brandy R. Sobczak, DVM, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center staff: http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/toxicology-case-how-help-dog-owners-manage-zinc-oxide-toxicosis
- Zinc Poisoning in Pets, Pamela Huyck, CVT & Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT, Associate Director of Veterinary Services, Pet Poison Helpline: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/zinc-poisoning-toxicity-in-pets
- Your Dog Needs Sunscreen Too!, Juliana Weiss-Roessler: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/skin-care/keeping-fun-in-the-sun-safe-for-your-dog
- Natural Sun Protection for Dogs, Ottowa Valley Dog Whisperer: http://ottawavalleydogwhisperer.blogspot.ca/2014/08/natural-sun-protection-for-dogs.html