Sunburn in cats and dogs – Pet tip 142
The sun is beating down, it is the middle of the day in the summer with a very high UV rating. Naturally, before you step outside you lather on the sunscreen, as you are aware that sunburn will predispose you to a greater risk of skin cancer, and also, sunburns hurt! You grab the dog’s leash and head off for a day in the sun at the beach. But wait, did you even consider putting sunscreen on your dog? Step back inside the house for a minute out of the UV rays, and lets reconsider this decision.
To answer if your dog (or cat) needs sunscreen, first it is essential to know the answer to this question: Can they get sunburns? The answer is a resounding YES! Now, you may think that your pet’s fur will protect it from the sun, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Oftentimes the fur will not be thick enough, or there are areas on the body that lack fur that can more easily burn. In particular, dogs with light coloured noses (just like fair-skinned people) burn quicker, as do animals with missing fur, thin fur or short fur. Areas in every dog that are especially susceptible to being injured by the sun’s rays include the stomach, inside of the legs, groin, tips of ears and snout. This can become a problem, as many dogs enjoy ‘sun tanning’ with their belly exposed to the sun, resulting in burning. You will be able to tell if your pet has had too much ‘fun in the sun’ and has a burn, if their skin is red or has patches of loose hair.
If your dog gets a sunburn, it is likely painful or just uncomfortable depending on the severity of the burn. What can you do to alleviate the symptoms caused by a sunburn? Applying a cold cloth to the sunburned area may help. Hold the cloth in the location until it is no longer cold or dries out. This can be repeated several times and will help to cool off your pet. Aloe Vera (with no added chemicals) can also be applied directly to the wound to soothe the sunburn, just as many people do for themselves. Aloe Vera is a succulent plant with leaves that contain a gel-like substance that has these ‘soothing’ properties. If the sunburn is very bad and your pet looks to be in a lot of pain, more drastic treatment is necessary – a visit to the veterinarian is in order.
Humans how painful their own sunburns can be from experience. Being a great pet owner; you also want to prevent your 4 legged companion from soaking up too many UV rays. Have no fear! There are many preventive measures you can follow that will decrease your pet’s chances of getting a sunburn. First and foremost, provide your pet with shade! This is probably the most important and effective measure for prevention. When your pet is getting too hot, it will often move into the shade themselves, and be protected from UV rays. If there is no shade in your backyard in the summer, make sure to only let your pet out for short periods of time and then let it back inside the house. However, oftentimes you will want to bring your pet to areas where you cannot abide by these two suggestions, such as at the beach. What can you do? Fortunately, there are specially formulated pet sunscreen lotions that you can purchase to apply to areas of your pet that are most susceptible to being burned. Areas of light skin, tips of ears, skin around the lips, and nose bridge should have sunscreen. An appropriate sunscreen for your pet has no fragrance, has UV (A and B) barriers like SPF 15-30 for humans. If you are not sure if a sunscreen is safe for your pet, be sure to speak to you pet’s health care provider (vet), as there are some ingredients that are not safe for dogs and cats, and some may be OK for dogs but not cats. The best option is always using a product that was formulated especially for the species of animal that you have.
Now, it is not good enough to just put sunscreen on your pet – you have to do it correctly, or there will be little or no benefit. Do not be stingy with sunscreen! Although you might not think it aesthetically pleasing to do so on yourself, use ample sunscreen on your pet! A minimum of one tablespoon for each area of the body that needs to be protected from the sun should be applied. Also, one application will just not cut it usually. Especially during the middle of the day, sunscreen should be applied more frequently: every 4-6 hours. Now that both you and your pet have lathered on the sunscreen, you are both suited for the weather and protected against harmful UV rays.
By Laura Platt – Pets.ca writer