Last year saw Sydney’s hottest summer since records began and we can probably expect the same this year. While we've become well-versed in protecting ourselves from the scorching sunshine, we sometimes forget about our furry friends.
Many commercial pet sunscreens contain toxic and carcinogenic ingredients that we prefer to avoid.
So here’s our essential guide to help keep them sun safe... the natural way!
Who’s at risk?
All dogs can get sunburned. However, those particularly susceptible include:
- Short-haired breeds
- Those who’ve had a recent haircut (!)
- Dogs who spend a lot of time in the water, or on boats
- White-coloured dogs, who tend to have fairer skin under their fur
Even dogs with long hair are at risk of sun damage and all have some vulnerable areas, particularly the nose, the ears and the tummy.
We’ll get to the smelly (in a nice way!) stuff you can apply in a minute.
Did you know that diet plays an important role in fortifying their natural ability to prevent sun damage though?
Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid and phytonutrient that gives many fruits and vegetables their red colour. As well as having a strong role to play in disease prevention, lycopene also acts as a natural sunscreen for the skin.
Here are some of the best dog-friendly fruits and veg containing high levels of lycopene:
- Capsicum (red)
- Grapefruit (the flesh of the fruit only)
- Goji berries (also known as the wolfberry!)
- Paw-paw (without the seeds)
- Watermelon (without the seeds)
The bioavailability of lycopene from these foods is increased when paired with a good quality healthy fat, such as:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Flax seed oil
Top tip: To boost your pup’s natural sun protection and give them a healthy treat, divide a Capsicum into slices and spread ½ teaspoon of coconut oil on each. These can be served frozen or chilled for an extra cooling effect!
And we’ll just leave this here...
Did you know raw, unprocessed meat contains higher levels of the amino acid histidine, which helps the skin protect itself from molecular damage?
Commercial Cream Caution
As we mentioned, many pet sunscreens contain nasty toxins that we don’t think are worth the trade-off for sun protection. Especially when you can easily source some natural products, or even make your own!
The key things is... always check the label.
Some of the most common ingredients are known carcinogens and should always be avoided:
- Any artificial colours or preservatives
- Benzophenone, Benzophenone-2, Benzophenone-3
- Diethanolamine (DEA)
- DMDM Hydantoin
- Titanium Dioxide
- Triethanolamine (TEA)
- Octyl dimethyl PABA, Octyl-methoxycinnamate, Octyl-salicylates
It's your choice however. If you're interested in finding out more, do a little research like we have and find out!
The most effective natural sunscreen ingredient is Zinc.
As opposed to chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreens containing Zinc scatter the sun’s rays, helping prevent them being absorbed into the skin in the first place.
As it happens, seed and nut oils are naturally very high in this element (plus Vitamin E) and, so, are very useful sunscreens. Our two favourites are:
- Almond Oil
- Coconut Oil
These are recommended for short periods of sun-exposure, such as going for a walk.
Remember the sun-sensitive areas most at risk during this activity: the nose and tips of the ears. Plus, they smell really, really good and it doesn’t matter if your dog can’t resist a lick of it off their nose - they’re health foods too!
For slightly longer periods of exposure:
- Carrot seed oil: naturally higher on the SPF scale and is packed with antioxidants and vitamins, particularly Vitamin A. Carrot seed oil is particularly useful for dogs with sensitive skin, given its nourishing qualities
- Red Raspberry oil: another great one for dogs with skin issues, this oil is also on the higher end of SPF. Packed with Vitamins A & E and alpha-linoleic acid, it has the added benefit of powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Of course, no sunscreen can give 100% protection and there’s no substitute for old fashioned common sense.
Always make sure shade is available and try to avoid taking them out during the hottest part of the day.
But when it’s time for walks, swimming and play, give them the extra protective boost they deserve!
Stay tuned and over the next few weeks as we’ll be sharing our best tried and tested secrets for keeping dogs cool in the Summer!