Everyone knows you should protect your skin from sun damage by wearing a hat, staying in the shade and using sun protection products, but fewer people are aware that sun is a medical risk for their pets as well. Light or short coated dogs such as Maltese, Boxers, and the Bully breeds are especially vulnerable, as is any dog clipped short for the summer and those breeds that are susceptible to skin tumors such as Dobies, Poodles and Schnauzers. Even a shaggy-coated companion can get burned in sun-sensitive areas such as the nose, ear tips, belly or groin if exposed to bright sun for long periods of time, such as a day at the beach or on the boat.
Happily, you can take much the same precautions with your dog as you do for yourself. Provide shade and apply a sun protection product on sensitive areas that's especially formulated for dogs (cats too!) Using human sunscreens is risky because dogs, and particularly cats, will likely lick the product off and then you have to worry about whether it's safe to ingest. Probably not.
Several companies make sun protection products for animals, Epi-Pet, Doggies and Nutri-Vet are names you may see at your local pet store. Whichever product you choose, note that Octyl Salicylate products should not be used on cats because if ingested it breaks down into a substance that's toxic to them. Check your pet store for these products and others and keep some on hand when your pet is exposed to intense sun. With pets as with people, you need to use a significant amount (one tablespoon for every body part) and re-apply every 4 - 6 hours to be effective.
At Aussie Pet Mobile Cape Cod, we use a sun guard product on every light-coated dog we clip during the summer months but the protection is temporary so owners need to be aware of sun risks and be prepared to continue treatment as needed.