Sunscreen Toxins

Summertime is very near, and we all know that with summer comes a lot of sunshine. Many people are concerned about skin cancer and burns from sun exposure and reach for sunscreen protection during the summer months. It is important to remember that sunscreen is toxic to pets. Pet owners should take measures to prevent an accidental exposure to their furry friends.  Using sunscreen on pets that is intended for human use is discouraged due to the potential of accidental ingestion.  Pets should have their time under the sun limited to prevent skin burns and reduce the risk for skin cancer.

The two main ingredients of concern for pets are forms of acetylsalicylic acid and zinc oxide. Of the two, types of acetylsalicylic acid (octyl salicylate, homosalate, trolamine salicylate, among others) can cause serious health concerns for pets. It can lead to vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties, gastrointestinal ulceration, and anorexia. Zinc oxide on the other hand is known to cause mild gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea, which are typically self-limiting. Zinc poisoning is not common with ingestion of zinc oxide.  If your pet gained access to and ingested sunscreen, it is important to seek veterinary attention and contact Pet Poison Helpline.


Written by:

By: Natalia Kuzman, Pet Poison Helpline DVM student extern, Iowa State University CVM, Class of 2023

Samantha Koch, CVT, Veterinary Information Specialist II, Pet Poison Helpline