Your Pets and Sun Exposure

Like humans, pets that get a lot of sun exposure also need to have sun protection. Dogs and cats are at risk of getting sunburn and skin cancer. Though they are covered with hair, it is often not enough to protect them. Fortunately, there are ways to protect your pet from excessive sun exposure.

Pets that are more susceptible to sun exposure

Certain types of pets are especially at risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Pets that need special considerations include

  • Hairless pets
  • Short-haired pets
  • Shaved pets
  • Pets with bald patches
  • Pets with white hair
  • Pets with allergies
  • Pets on certain medications

All pet species are capable of suffering from too much sun exposure, including birds, rodents, and reptiles. Animals kept indoors can also suffer from the effects of too much sun. Cats, for example, love to sit near windows. Birds whose cages are placed in full sun for too long can often suffer consequences.

Using sunscreen on your pets

It is important not to use sunscreen or other skin products that are made for humans on your pet. Zinc oxide is a common ingredient in sunscreens for humans and can be very harmful to animals. Since animals tend to use their mouths for grooming, it's extremely important to use sunscreen specific to your type of pet. Sunscreens that are safe for dogs may not be safe for cats or other animals. Cats are especially sensitive to salicylates which are common ingredients in many sunscreens. If you are using sunscreen, be sure to use it on your pet's nose and other exposed area like the belly.

Protecting pets from sun exposure without sunscreen

For those who don't want to use chemicals on their pets, there are alternative methods to protect your pet from getting sunburn. The most common and easiest thing you can do is limit your pet's time in the sun. This means providing shade or shelter for your pet, closing blinds, or moving your bird's cage. Try not to shave your long-haired pet, but use an undercoat rake to thin out the hair for keeping cool. If your pet can tolerate it, you can also try pet clothing and vests.

Treating sunburns

If your pet happens to get sunburned, make sure that you use a pet friendly treatment. Do not use creams or sprays designed for humans on your pet without talking to your veterinarian, first. This includes natural treatments such as aloe or witch hazel. Mild sunburns can usually be treated at home with a cool bath or cold compress. Sunburns that have blisters or other severe swelling and skin damage require veterinary intervention such as Animal Medical Center of Bradenton.