This article was written by the Humane Society of Broward County’s Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Singh.
As the hot summer approaches, a couple of the most frequent questions we get asked are about sunscreen and sunburn. As we Floridians know, the sun can be brutal here in the summer months. Pet parents often wonder if their pets can get sunburn….
The answer is yes, absolutely, your pet can get sunburn! Sunburn can appear simply as red skin or even as hair loss. Also long-term exposure can lead to skin cancer. Not all pets are risk, but if your pet has light skin, white fur, thin or missing hair or spends time in the sun, he or she may be at risk.
Even pets that lay in the sun coming through windows can still get exposed to one type of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are two types of UV rays – UVA and UVB. Both can contribute to aging, damage to the skin including sunburn, and skin cancer.
Usually sunburn will affect the top of the nose, the tips of the ears, the belly (where there is little to no hair) and around the mouth. If you’ve recently shaved your pet, then they may also get sunburn.
There are a few ways to prevent sunburn. First, you can minimize exposure to the sun, especially during midday. If your pet enjoys wearing clothing, there are now t-shirts and other garments that have UV protection built in. Otherwise, you can apply sunscreen for pets.
It is important to find sunblock that covers both types of UV rays, UVA and UVB. My own personal dog loves lying in the sun. In his case, a UV t-shirt wouldn’t work because he loves exposing his abdomen to the warm sun coming through the window. I apply a sunblock that has UV protection to protect his little belly from the harmful rays.
If you choose to apply sunscreen, look for a pet-friendly brand. It should be non-scented, non-staining and not contain zinc or octyl salicylate. (Both zinc and anything that contains salicylate is highly toxic to our pets.) Look for the highest SPF rating you can, with a minimum of SPF 15. If the sunblock has an ingestion warning, do not use it on your pets. For cats specifically, the sunblock should be labeled safe for cats. Many pet stores now carry pet-friendly sunscreen.
We hope you and your pet enjoy the summer sun!