Humans know all too well the pain of being sunburned. People with fair skin learn early on that sunblock is needed on sunny days in the summertime. However, pet owners don’t give a second thought to the idea of their little friend getting sunburned. Despite the fact they do not have the fair skin of humans, animals can and do suffer from sunburn.
Prolonged exposure can lead to some very uncomfortable problems for certain breeds of dogs. Hairless breeds such as Chihuahuas are most definitely vulnerable. Short haired dogs are also susceptible to skin damage and dogs that have white or pink skin can be harmed by ultraviolet rays. The sunburn can be noticed on the nose, the underbelly of the dog, ear tips, and around the dog’s mouth.
Cats are not immune from sunburn. White cats are at risk and those that are pale or bald are known as sun sensitive. Tips of the cat’s ears and nose are particular areas where sunburn can develop. Both cats and dogs are at risk of developing skin cancer if they are left outside too long. Shaded areas in the yard as well as limited exposure outdoors during 10am to 4pm are good precautions.
It is necessary to keep a sharp eye on pets during the summer months. Any sign of pinkish or reddish color that ordinarily is not there is a sign of sunburn. If it ceases to go away or if it looks like abrasions appear, then it is a good idea to bring the animal into the veterinarian. Any melanoma or evidence of skin cancer can be dealt with quickly in the early stages. Just like humans, indifference or lack of attention could lead to a very serious case of skin cancer.
Animals that are outside for extended periods of time should have a sunscreen. Application should be in the most vulnerable areas which would include the muzzle and ears of the animal. Cats need sunscreen as well and it should be applied to the ears and tip of the nose. Sunscreens designed for animals do not have the same type of chemicals as humans use. A sunscreen including zinc oxide can lead to a dog developing hemolytic anemia. Any product that has PABA will be fatal. All sunscreens should be purchased from a pet store or from the veterinarian. A healthy, thick coat is not the ultimate protection against a pet having sunburn. It is the vigilance of the owner during the summer months, which is the best guarantee.
Source: Dr. Ron’s Animal Hospital and Emergency