If you have ever read the back of a container of sunscreen you know it can contain a number of ingredients. Generally, the primary reported issue for a pet who has ingested sunscreen is gastrointestinal upset; occasionally those signs may be severe and include bloody vomiting and diarrhea.
Sunscreen generally contains two primary ingredients you should know about.
Many sunscreens contain salicylates, often more than one kind at a variety of concentrations.
Salicylates have several effects in the body that ultimately result in a respiratory alkalosis and a compensatory metabolic acidosis; rarely hepatoxicity may be seen. Gastric ulcerations are also possible with exposure to salicylates.
While these more serious effects are not commonly reported when sunscreens are ingested, more caution may be warranted when large amounts or higher concentrations of salicylates are ingested.
Beside sunscreen, zinc oxide is also commonly found in diaper rash creams. The most common sign reported is vomiting—and because it often occurs soon after exposure due to the irritating nature of zinc oxide, pets may decontaminate themselves this way.
Rarely, however, allergic reactions are reported with ingestion of zinc oxide—typically manifesting in facial swelling and pruritis. While not common, zinc toxicity is possible if sufficient amounts of zinc oxide are ingested.