By Kathleen Millat Johnson
Whether it’s running on the beach, sunning in the backyard, or being first mate on your boat, your dog is as vulnerable to the sun’s rays as you are. Skin damage from the sun can occur on a 30-minute walk!
Dogs that are white-haired and pink-skinned, such as Bichons, Maltese, Westies and Poodles, are especially at risk. Breeds that have thin fur coats like Pit Bulls, Boxers, Greyhounds, Beagles, Labs, Dalmatians, Whippets and Jack Russells, to name only a few, are also more at risk. A hairless dog like a Chinese Crested is never safe in the sun
The most readily burned areas on dogs are on the top of the nose, ear tips, lips, tummies (if they like to nap on their backs) and any place where there are patches of thinning or missing fur.
Dog owners should check their dogs for skin damage by looking for reddened skin, red and purple spots, blisters, bumps and lumps. Take your dog to your veterinarian if any of these signs appear.
Boating and beach people who take their dogs with them for a day on the water should be on alert. While coating themselves and their children with SPF, they may forget that their dogs need sun protection as well.
One Lowcountry Woman’s Solution
There are several products on the market made for protecting dogs from the sun. One is a product called Solardogz, designed by a Mount Pleasant resident named Mary Lou Scott.
Scott grew up on Long Island and has been sailing since she was seven. Through the years she observed surfers and sailboat racers wearing rash-guard shirts to protect themselves from the elements, but the dogs accompanying them had no protection at all.
While sailboat racing in the Caribbean she thought, why not use the same material for dogs?
Thinking about the idea was one thing, but doing it is something else. Mary Lou was living and working in New York City at the time when she got serious about creating a product to protect dogs.
“I said to myself, ‘Let’s start a business we know nothing about!’” she laughs, while recounting the process. “I researched. I made lists. I thought about it all the time. I finally found a woman in Brooklyn in the fashion industry [Project Runway] who was willing to work with me.”
Five years later, in 2014, her idea became a reality. The Solardogz T-shirt was born with a slogan of “We’ve Got Your Dogz Covered!”
The product is a stretchable T-shirt made of rash guard fabric in sizes that will fit small and medium-sized dogs. She will soon offer sizes to fit dogs up to 100 pounds.
Scott wants to continue keeping production here in the United States and has plans to “go green” in the future. She reported she has found a supplier who will make the SPF fabric out of plastic bottles.
Whenever Scott is boating on the water and sees unprotected dogs in the sun, she likes to educate their owners by yelling over to them as the boats go pass.
“I tell them they need to protect their dogs from sunburn and skin cancer,” she says. “I am a hopeless dog lover.”
Solardogz T-shirts are made from a four-way stretch fabric, called rash-guard. They are easy pull-on and off, lightweight, washable and quick-dry and most importantly they have an SPF factor of 50. They can be ordered from Solardogz website (solardogz.com) or purchased from Hairy Winston’s Pet Boutique at Towne Centre in Mount Pleasant.