How To Put Sunscreen On A Dog

Nala cocking her head Nala the WonderDog was recently diagnosed with Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE). Colorado, where we live, has an extremely high rate of auto-immune diseases, both in people and in pets. And they don’t really know why.

Just like “people lupus,” DLE is an immune disease, but instead of affecting the whole body, it mostly just affects her nose.

Over the course of about 18 months, she has slowly lost the black pigment and cobblestone texture of her nose. No other symptoms, and it doesn’t bother her one bit.

There’s no cure for DLE, but symptoms can be managed with a topical ointment my dermatology veterinarian prescribes. [Yeah, read that again. I have a doggie dermatologist.] I expect to receive it in the next day or two and I’m told within a couple of months, we’ll see her nose return to its former glory. I’ll report back.

In the meantime, and forever, I’m supposed to put sunscreen on her widdle nose before she goes outside for longer than 10 minutes. It has to be broad-spectrum, at least 30 SPF, waterproof, and non-toxic.

I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks, kinda sorta, and I’ve come to the conclusion there are Four Stages of Dog Sunscreening one must pass through.

First Stage — Oblivious

This is where you think “how hard can it be?” You dab a bit of sunscreen on your finger, rub it on her nose then walk away, thinking your job is done. That nose is licked clean before you even cap the tube.

Second Stage — Reasoning

Here, you apply the sunscreen using the same logic you would with your children or recalcitrant spouse, saying things like, “We can’t go outside until you put it on” and “All the other husbands are doing it.” It’s very similar to telling a child (or a recalcitrant spouse), “You can’t have your dessert if you don’t eat your veggies.” Unfortunately, reasoning of this kind is wasted on dogs who eat sticks, bugs, grass, and all manner of things you wouldn’t think to bribe them with. “Dessert” holds no special meaning to a dog, unless of course, it’s delicious, like zinc oxide.

Third Stage — Bait & Switch

This is where you apply it with your right hand, while you’re doling out love with the left. (Or versa-dextrous.) “Who’s a good girl, standing so still while getting sunscreened?” … scritch, scritch … “Who’s Mommy’s favorite?” … knead, knead … “Who’s getting more attention than my children ever did?” … pat, pat, scritch, scritch

But ultimately, you realize that none of these strategies are really working as you’d like. Which leads us to the

Fourth Stage — Hopeful

It looks like this: dab – lick – dab – lick – this time’ll be different – dab – lick – dab – lick – dab – lick – this time’ll be different – dab – lick.  Repeated until one of you passes out from ennui. Hint. It won’t be the dog.

This is very much an example of “pilling a duck.” What ridiculous things do you do for your pet?

4 thoughts on “How To Put Sunscreen On A Dog

  1. Chris Reese

    Hank had a tiny little b b sized cancerous tumor on his outer ear, and so had to have his ear removed several years ago. He now looks like I took him to get his ears cropped and what? Could only afford one? People are already scared of Pitt bulls. Now he looks a little bit intimidating. But I digress. I didn’t think about how wind would affect him after surgery! The vet suggested, so I bought him a knitted head-wrap! He looked cute on walks and it kept the wind out of his ear until he could adjust.

    1. Becky Post author

      Ohmygosh! Like he’d been in a dogfight! But the little head wrap to soften it. Don’t you wish you could just explain some things to them?

  2. K.A. Olgren

    So been there. Our Jasmine had a snout issue as well. It’s taken years to get it cleared up and becoming mostly an indoor dog ended up being the biggest factor in her healing. Hers was so bad sometimes that a pinhole would open up between her nostrils and she would spew blood all over the place. Sometimes I would come home from work and it would look like a gruesome murder had taken place in the garage (this was her indoor space with a doggie door going outside while were were at work). Sometimes it was in our bedroom. Once it happened in the middle of the living room. I feel your pain. Don’t even get me started on the squirrel murders. So. Much. Blood. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

    1. Becky Post author

      Ay caramba! I guess I shouldn’t complain. No gruesome scenes here … yet. I got her medication (topical) the other day and put it on her one evening and then the next morning. She was outside less than ten minutes before she was raw and bleeding, luckily not spewing. I need to ask the vet if the medication makes her even more susceptible to sun damage. Dogs. Sheesh.


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