Did you know that dogs can get sun burned? Canine sun burns can be just as painful and damaging as sun burns experienced by us humans.
Which dogs are most at risk of sunburn?
- Dogs with short hair
- Dog with little or no hair
- Dogs that spend a lot of time in or on the water (in boats)
But even a dog with a thick coat of fur can end-up with a sun-burned nose.
A dog’s ears, nose and underside are most at-risk for sunburn.
Your dog’s diet and genetics can also effect susceptibility to sun burn. Just like people, some dogs are more sensitive to the damaging effects of the sun’s UVA rays. A poor diet can also have a negative impact on a dog’s natural defense to resist sunburn.
Most commercial made-for-pet sunscreens contain a variety of health-damaging toxic and carcinogenic ingredients. Some of these ingredients also block the skin's ability to absorb UVB rays. Your dog needs to absorb the UVB to keep his/her vitamin D levels up. For more information regarding ingredients to avoid in commercial sun protection products go here.
So what’s the best plan of action to protect your dog from the damaging effects of the sun’s UVA rays?
The best all around protection is holistic and works on the inside and the outside by supporting the body's natural mechanisms for sun protection...
1.0 Diet – Enable The Body’s Natural Sun Screen
Support your dog’s natural ability to withstand the sun by adding some lycopene rich foods to his / her daily diet. Lycopene is a very powerful phytonutrient and antioxidant that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene, a member of the carotenoid family is a red pigment that gives some fruits and vegetables their red colour. In addition to acting as the skins natural sunscreen, lycopene is important in disease prevention as it helps reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.
After ingestion lycopene enters the lymphatic system, then moves on to organs such as the adrenal glands, colon and liver. The skin only absorbs a small part of the ingested lycopene. The bioavailability of dietary lycopene is increased when the lycopene-containing food is ingested with a good-source fat such as organic...
- Coconut oil
- Other organic healthy plant-based oils:
- Or a fish oil made from 100% deep-sea wild-caught fish, for example:
Make sure you follow the advice provided here when adding fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet. Keep in mind that a dog’s species appropriate diet is 56% to 60% protein, 25% to 30% fat and 11% to 14% appropriate carbohydrates – including appropriate fruits and vegetables.
The following are safe, dog-friendly fruits and veggies that are high in lycopene...
- Apricots (pit removed)
- Cabbage – specifically purple cabbage, not green cabbage
- Grapefruit (the flesh of the grapefruit only)
- Goji Berries (wolf berries)
- Guavas (pit removed)
- Tomatoes (bioavailable lycopene in tomatoes is increased when the tomatoes are cooked)
- Mango (pit removed)
- Papaya (seeds removed)
- Peppers – sweet, red
- Rose hips
- Watermelon (seedless)
If you want to maximize the lycopene add one of the healthy fats (noted above) or combine with a serving (teaspoon to tablespoon) of finely ground organic almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
2.0 Topical Protection
2.1 All-Natural Simple, Safe Oils
Option One, use natural oils that offer protection targeted to screen out most of the sun’s harmful UVA rays for relatively reasonable periods of time (not all day exposure) without the serious side effects of many commercial sunscreens. Natural oils also nourish the skin while allowing UVB rays through – thereby supporting the production of vitamin D. And one more advantage – unlike the commercial chemical-based sunscreens, if your dog licks his / her skin or fur the natural oils are health promoting.
Carrot Seed Oil This oil has a very high rating for sun protection - said to be between “30” and “38” SPF. Carrot seed oil is also packed with vitamins and antioxidants including carotene and vitamin A. This oil is of particular therapeutic value for dogs with skin issues. The only caution – carrot seed oil can have an orange tinge – for dogs with white or light fur and skin temporary color transfer may be experienced while the oil is present.
Red Raspberry Oil
Red raspberry oil has an excellent SPF rating – estimated at 30 to 50 SPF. This oil is also rich in vitamin E making it a good choice for dogs that are prone to skin issues. Vitamin E is also a natural preservative – this oil is naturally resistant to rancidity. Red raspberry oil also has excellent anti-inflammatory properties due to its high content of vitamin A and alpha linolenic acid.
Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat germ oil is lower on the SPF range but is still a good alternative also offering excellent levels for vitamin E making it a great choice for dogs already suffering from dry skin, irritated or inflamed skin.
2.2 Essential Oil Sunscreen
Option Two, you can make your own essential oil sunscreen – some essential oils have excellent sun-blocking properties and are also natural anti-inflammatories.
To make your own essential oil sunscreen you will need an organic carrier oil and a high quality therapeutic grade organic essential oil.
You can choose either:
- Lavender Essential Oil, or
- Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
For a carrier oil you can choose one of the following oils (preferably organic):
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Sesame Oil
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil for every ounce of carrier oil
- Thoroughly mix the carrier oil with the essential oil
- Apply sparingly
- Avoid getting the mixture in your dog’s eyes
- Don’t use essential oil sun-screen on puppies that are younger than 8 weeks of age.
- Do not use aromatherapy or perfume essential oils as they are produced by distillation with solvents that are toxic to dog
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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld