My Dog Ate Sunscreen! What Should I Do?

Pets are very curious animals and will attempt to sniff and nibble on certain things around the house. According to ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, sunscreen ingestion is one major reason pet owners call in for help during the summer. Since it is not unusual for pets, especially dogs, to eat sunscreen, what do you do if this happens?

Prioritizing proper storage of your sunscreen and other chemicals would minimize the chances of your pet getting poisoned; however, mistakes do happen. You want to prevent this from ever occurring because sunscreen contains toxic chemicals that can affect the internal organs of your dog negatively if taken in certain quantities. As much as prevention is important, knowing how to manage the situation if your dog ate sunscreen is just as essential. 

What are the components of sunscreen? What are the toxic chemicals it contains, and how do you manage the situation? These questions and more will be addressed in this article; keep reading to have a proper understanding of how to handle this issue. 

Why Would a Dog Eat Sunscreen? 

You might be wondering why your dog decided to eat sunscreen, of all things. Does it smell good, or does it taste good? Or was it out of pure curiosity? It seems very bizarre that your dog finds sunscreen edible and will have you asking questions. 

Well, your furry friend is all over the place and interested in many things. If left access to any and everything, dogs would most likely sniff and taste anything they can- including your sunscreen. Also, dogs are not entirely aware of what is safe to eat or not, so they do not have natural restraint from trying things that look good to them.

There are sunscreens off the shelf labeled safe for dogs; however, it is best to check the ingredient list for unwanted chemicals. Ensure that the sunscreen you apply to your dog does not contain harmful ingredients like zinc oxide and salicylates- also, ensure that it is waterproof and scent-free. Another way dogs can ingest sunscreen is by licking it off themselves after you have applied it on their skin or fur for protection against sunburn and UV rays. 

Is Sunscreen Toxic to Dogs if Ingested? 

Depending on the amount ingested, the reaction to sunscreen differs. If consumed in small amounts, your dog can show minor symptoms such as temporary diarrhea, irritation, and vomiting. Consuming sunscreen in larger amounts can lead to more adverse effects.

Sunscreen contains active chemical ingredients, among which are zinc oxide, salicylates, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid). Many sunscreens contain salicylates, which, when ingested in large quantities, cause respiratory alkalosis and hepatotoxicity. The most common effect of zinc oxide ingestion is vomiting and facial swelling, and pruritus in some rare cases. 

In simple terms, respiratory alkalosis is when the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is low due to heavy breathing, and this can make your dog start hyperventilating. Hepatotoxicity is when the liver gets poisoned and can no longer function properly as a result. Signs of hepatotoxicity include diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and fatigue. Dogs that are extra sensitive to salicylates can lead to irritation of their gut lining and mild ulcer. 

What to Do if My Dog Ate Sunscreen?

Proper knowledge of what to do if your dog eats sunscreen will save you time and unnecessary panic if the incident does occur. If you discover that your dog ate sunscreen, the best thing to do is to call a vetinary doctor or animal poison control center immediately, although there are home remedies you can apply for minor reactions. Your vet may advise that you induce vomiting before bringing your dog to the clinic for further treatment.

Put away the sunscreen tube or container immediately, and proceed to rinse your dog’s paws with clean running water to remove any residue left on them. Try rinsing your dog’s mouth with clean running water to get rid of the cream and its smell- you might need a helping hand with this as your doggie might not find this comfortable. Next, take some time to watch how your dog behaves or reacts within the hour and note it for your vet’s reference. Proceed to call your vet, provide them necessary information and follow whatever instructions they give. 

If you must make a stop at the vet’s, take with you an ingredient list of the sunscreen- or better still, the sunscreen tube itself for samples. This will help your vet to know what kind of chemical your dog has swallowed and the possible dangers it may pose. If you can recall, note the time you discovered the incident and communicate that to your vet to help them with their diagnosis. 


According to reports from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, one of the most commonly reported reactions to ingesting sunscreen, as reported by most pet owners, is gastrointestinal upset, which causes the dog to throw up and drool excessively or pass out unusual stool. Weakness and moodiness are also common due to the discomfort your dog is experiencing. The best measure to take is prevention to avoid emergencies and cases of poisoning. Keep your sunscreen away from your dog’s play area and easily accessible areas in the house.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!