When it comes to lounging in the sun too long without skin protection, the risks for dogs are very similar to those for humans. Many pups are prone to chronic sunburn—or canine solar dermatitis—which can lead to the advancement of various kinds of skin cancer. Therefore, it’s important to have a spread of dermatologist-recommended, SPF (Sun Protection Factor)-heavy skin products in your collection of pet accessories when you take them outside.
“For dogs, it’s important to choose a product with a fairly high SPF,” says Jeanne Budgin, DVM, DACVD, a board-certified veterinary dermatologist at Hudson Valley Veterinary Dermatology in New York’s Westchester County. “Generally, we recommend an SPF of 30 or higher, as well as a fragrance-free product because dogs and humans have different sensitivities to fragrance. It should also be waterproof if they are doing any outdoor activity, and it should have UVA and UVB protection.”
Our favorite overall—as well as Dr. Budgin’s—is the Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen for its strong SPF, easy spray application, and rare FDA stamp of approval.
We weighed the benefits of dozens of the most popular brands of dog sunscreen, seeking input from both dog owners and veterinary dermatologists. Though SPF ratings are not applied to most dog sunscreens, we assessed the natural SPF content of their ingredients, the ease of application, the quality of the ingredients, and the oiliness of each product’s formula.
Here are the best dog sunscreens.
Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen
Only FDA-approved dog sunscreen
Easy to apply
Conditions skin and coat
Couldn’t find anything
Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen is perhaps the only product on the market that boasts all of these qualities—or at least can prove that it does. It’s hard to argue with a bestselling dog sunscreen that has the distinction of being the sole FDA-approved sunscreen on the market, with a fortifying SPF rating between 30-40. A favorite among consumers as well as professionals, K-9 Care is easy to apply to even the most skittish pup, thanks to a bottle that is ingeniously designed to spray at any angle.
K-9 Care also dries easily without oiliness or stickiness that can leave a residue on your dog’s fur. Dr. Budgin, who recommends Epi-Pet to patients, compliments the micro-emulsified quality of the spray, which “really helps penetrate the hair.”
Outside of the obvious positive effects on sunburn, Epi-Pet K-9 Care is proven to offer significant protection against both UVA and UVB rays, malignant skin tumors, and inflammation that can lead to dermatitis. It’s also infused with vitamin E, which helps nurture healthy fur.
Active Ingredients: Ethylhexl Methoxycinnamate, Octyl Salicylate, Homosalate, Benzophenone-3, Alcohol Denaturated, Ethyllhexyl Salicylate, C-12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Tocopheryl Acetate︱SPF: 30+︱Size: 3.5 ounces
Emmy's Best Pet Products Dog Sun Skin Protector Spray
Easy to apply
SPF is not definite
Though Epi-Pet is our number one choice for sunscreen, Emmy’s Sun Skin Protector Dog Spray is a close second and our pick for the best overall spray. Emmy’s offers powerful protection, and though not FDA-approved, the manufacturers estimate its SPF rating to be at least 30.
It includes moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil which are great for dogs with dry, cracked skin, but it doesn’t substitute these for other powerful sun-protecting agents. And despite the use of oil, Emmy’s uses a non-greasy formula that prevents mess and the buildup of dirt and other contaminants on your dog’s coat.
Active Ingredients: Octinoxate︱SPF: Approx. 30︱Size: 8 ounces
Petkin Doggy Sun Stick
Safe but fortifying mineral ingredients
Safe for dogs of all ages and sizes
Not appropriate for certain kinds of dogs and outdoor activities
This pet owner favorite slips in your pocket easily, making it a great staple for any trip out with your pup. It’s also proven safe for all dogs, featuring mineral ingredients that protect their skin from the sun without any potential toxicity or side effects. The sunscreen is also gentle, non-greasy, and non-sticky, making it easy to apply and reapply without building up residue on the coat or causing discomfort to your good boy or girl.
The main downside is the Petkin Doggy Sun Stick's low SPF rating. While this is a great on-the-go accessory for casual outdoor excursions, its SPF is around 15 and may not suffice for long stays outdoors—certainly not for at-risk dogs engaging in full-on sunbathing. If your dog has light-colored or sparse fur, then you may want to seek out a stronger lotion.
Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide︱SPF: 15︱Size: 5 ounces
Best Sun-Block Clothing
PlayaPup Dog Sun Shirt
Blocks 98 percent of harmful rays
Doesn’t protect all areas of dog’s body
If your dog can’t handle a solution of any kind being applied to their skin or coat, you may want to look into options for the fabric equivalent of sunscreen: sun-block clothing. Perhaps our favorite cost-effective option on the market is PlayaPup Sun Shirt, which comes in a variety of playfully patterned styles and colors.
While a sun shirt might seem like a less effective option than carefully engineered skin care products, PlayaPup’s shirt has been designed to block 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays thanks to its UPF 50+ fabric. If your pup’s comfort in a piece of heavy-duty clothing is a concern to you, don’t worry—the flatlock stitching design makes it a comfortable fit, preventing itching and chafing.
Side note: When it comes to sun-block clothing for dogs, Dr. Budgin encourages pairing a high-quality, high-coverage sun suit with a shade or visor to help block out harmful rays on the face and neck. So consider adding a piece of canine headgear of your choice if you try out PlayaPup’s shirt.
Active Ingredients: N/A︱SPF: UPF 50+ fabric︱Size: XXS-4XL
Sit. Stay. Forever. Sunscreen
Also works as a moisturizer
Vegan and cruelty-free
SPF is hard to quantify
Nautral-oil-based products not proven to provide adequate sun protection
For dog owners passionate about finding an organic sunscreen option for their pup, Sit. Stay. Forever’s combination sunscreen and moisturizer product is their best choice. The natural oils it contains are heavily fruit-based, providing natural antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids that repair damaged skin. The company also notes the estimated SPF power of its ingredients, with the strongest being carrot seed oil at 35-40.
The product is also vegan and cruelty-free, and therefore free of almost any potential harmful ingredient you might be at risk of finding in other sunscreens, including titanium and zinc oxides, benzophenone, and oxybenzone.
However, Dr. Budgin is reluctant to co-sign any of the major organic sunscreen products on the market.
“I would be very cautious about using a product that indicates that it has any kind of sun-protecting properties based on waxes or oils,” Dr. Budgin says. “[Oils] are not proven to help with sun protection and can be messy.”
Active Ingredients: Red raspberry seed oil, hemp seed oil, carrot seed oil, coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter︱SPF: Unknown︱Size: 2 ounces
The combination of its FDA rating, strength, and ease of application make the Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen a clear winner as the best all-around choice for a default dog sunscreen. Certainly, it provides the strongest protection of any sunscreen product on the list. However, Emmy’s Sun Skin Protector Spray combines high estimated SPF with some natural moisturizing ingredients, and it may be the perfect fit for pet owners who want a product with all-natural ingredients in the mix but don’t want to rely on a non-veterinarian-approved, fully organic sunscreen.
What To Look for in a Dog Sunscreen
How to Apply
In general, you can apply sunscreen to your dog much in the same way you would to yourself or another human being. According to Jeanne Budgin, DVM, DACVD, a board-certified veterinary dermatologist at Hudson Valley Veterinary Dermatology, the most susceptible areas for many dogs are “the undercarriage, thighs, belly, armpits, nose, and muzzle,” so those are important target areas.
It is also crucial to keep control of your pup for a short period—10 minutes according to Dr. Budgin—after applying the sunscreen so it sets in before they can lick it off. Sprays are often preferred by pet owners because they are hard to lick off and less likely to agitate your pup.
Like humans, dogs are at risk for damaging solar dermatitis and skin cancer. Outside of its utility in decreasing the risk of serious disease, sunscreen can also assist with overall skin and coat health. Most of the products on the list also actively work to repair damaged skin cells.
While a dog's fur offers some protection from the sun, dog breeds that are white, light-colored, or have thin fur (including hairless dogs), are possibly more susceptible to getting solar dermatitis.
There are several important differences between the ingredient list in human sunscreens versus products designed for dogs. For example, essential oils are often included in skin care products for people but can be highly toxic to dogs. Zinc oxide and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) are the most important ingredients to make absolutely sure are absent in any skin product you purchase for your pup.
According to Dr. Budgin, minor ingestion of zinc oxide may cause gastrointestinal issues to varying degrees of seriousness; other doctors report that high amounts of zinc oxide can potentially lead to anemia in dogs. In other words, remember to store your personal sunscreen somewhere away from your pup if you’re at the beach together.
It is essential to find a dog sunscreen that can offer a high degree of SPF and UVA/UVB protection. The only issue with this is that nearly every dog skin product is not FDA-approved, meaning that companies cannot assign their products a hard-and-fast SPF rating, only an estimated one. Because it is FDA-approved, the Epi-Pet K-9 Care is the only product on this list with an official SPF rating (30).
Also, some highly SPF-rated ingredients can often be bad for dogs, so it’s important to note that, while dogs require strong sun protection, they also need it to come from the right combination of sources. So before you invest in any non-FDA-sanctioned dog sunscreen with SPF listed on the packaging, make sure you know how that number is calculated.
Do I need to put sunscreen on my dog?
Definitely. If you want to protect your pup against health hazards that can cause cancer or other potentially life-threatening skin diseases, it’s important to do your research and invest in a well-tested product that offers a reasonable amount of protection outdoors.
Can I put regular sunscreen on my dog?
No, you should never use human sunscreen on your dog. Regular sunscreen for humans often includes ingredients that can cause immediate health problems if your pup consumes them: zinc oxide and PABA. Since dogs are often prone to attempt to lick off sunscreens when applied to them, it’s crucial that no product you put on their skin includes any ingredients that are potentially hazardous when ingested directly. Go as natural as possible and nontoxic all the way.
What to do if my dog eats sunscreen?
Since dog sunscreen is designed with the assumption that pups will attempt to lick it off, it is nontoxic—at least everything we have included on this list is—so you shouldn’t have to do anything, even if they ingest a fair amount of it. If you make the mistake of applying human sunscreen to them—or they decide to taste some you have lying around—this may cause gastrointestinal upset, with the most severe side effects being diarrhea, vomiting, or severe dehydration. If these symptoms occur, contact the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control hotline.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This roundup was written by Winston Cook-Wilson, a writer for The Spruce Pets, whose work has also appeared in The Guardian, The Ringer, Vice, Pitchfork, and Spin.
For this roundup, we compared dozens of popular and readily available dog sunscreens. Our assessments were based on direct expert advice from veterinarians like Jeanne Budgin, DVM, DACVD, a board-certified veterinary dermatologist at Hudson Valley Veterinary Dermatology in New York’s Westchester County. We also took into account consumer testimonials and considerations of affordability and accessibility. Since the majority of these products are not FDA-approved, we gathered the most in-depth information we could about the sun-protective quality of each products’ ingredients, as well as checking them for ingredients with potentially toxic side effects.