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Tips for Sun Protection for Pets

Summer is here, and we are slathering on the sunscreen, but our pets spend a lot of time outside with us, too. What about them? VRC wants you to know how important sun protection for pets can be and how to keep them safe in the summer sun.

Sunscreen for Pets

Many pet owners are surprised to learn that their dogs and cats can get sunburns. However, our pets have skin just like we do, and that skin can only be protected by fur to an extent. If you are anticipating that your dog or cat will be out in the sun for extended periods of time, you should use pet-safe sunscreen on their skin.

Focus sunscreen application on the nose and ears, because these areas tend to have less fur and are more sensitive. Additionally, pets that have short hair, thin hair, no hair, or hair with little pigment are more likely to get sunburns, and therefore, these pets will need more sunscreen protection than some other pets may need. If you shave your pet, you will also want to make sure you protect the skin that is newly exposed to the sun. Avoid getting sunscreen in your pet’s eyes, however, as it can cause burning and irritation.

When it comes to applying sunscreen to your pet, you will want to make sure you get a pet-safe product. Many human sunscreens contain ingredients that can be toxic and cause gastrointestinal problems if they happen to be ingested by a pet. For these reasons, you don’t want to use a human sunscreen on your pet.

Instead, pet-safe sunscreens can be purchased. These sunscreens won’t contain zinc oxide, but they will help prevent sunburn. Look for a sunscreen that is fragrance-free and waterproof. A good sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at least 15. A few of the more common pet sunscreens are Virbac Pet Guard Gel with Sunscreen, which is safe for both cats and dogs, and Doggles Pet Sunscreen, which can be used on dogs.

Much like human sunscreen, pet sunscreens can be sprays, gels, or creams, so you may want to determine which product is going to be easier for you to apply to your pet based on their personality. You want to try to keep your pet from ingesting and inhaling the sunscreen the best you can. Sunscreens should be reapplied every three or four hours unless your dog is in the water, in which case you should reapply the sunscreen more frequently.

Sun Gear for Pets

If your pet isn’t going to respond well to sunscreen, you can get special attire for your pet to prevent sunburns. Solar-protective clothing ranging from eyewear to shirts to hats can help prevent problems for your dog or cat when they are out in the sun.

For pets that like to spend a lot of time outside in the summer, there are covers that can be placed on exercise pens that can prevent sunburns. They function like beach umbrellas that block the sun’s rays from hitting the skin.

Risks of Sun Exposure

The most immediate risk associated with sun exposure for our pets is sunburn. Much like humans, dogs and cats find sunburns to be painful, and they can also experience skin peeling. Severe sunburns can even lead to infections that are tricky to treat and extremely painful for your pet.

Skin cancer is also a problem for our furry friends. Using sunscreen is important to prevent damage to the skin from the sun that can lead to cancer. Skin cancer can be painful and life-threatening, so it is important that pet owners try their best to prevent sunburns in their pets.

Other Summer Weather Considerations

Sun protection is extremely important, but just because your pet is protected from the sun’s rays doesn’t mean that it isn’t at risk for heatstroke. Heatstroke is very dangerous for pets, and you need to make sure that your pet has access to shade and water if you are going to be outside in the heat for an extended period of time.

Avoid bringing your pet outdoors during the hottest time of day, and if you can, leave your pet at home to avoid any risk of being left in a place without access to shade, water, or air conditioning.

VRC knows that accidents and unexpected situations arise, so if your pet does seem to have a sunburn or heatstroke, bring them in right away if you are in the Philadelphia area. Sun protection for pets isn’t always easy to figure out, so give us a call at 610-647-2950 if you have any questions about keeping your pet safe in the sun.

What does this sign mean?

 

Have you seen this sign at our hospital? If so, you may be wondering what it means!

It simply means we have an MRI machine on site! OSHA requires these signs to indicate how far away you are from the machine. Zone I is very far away, and poses no health risks to you or your pet. It reads “General Public” for this reason. All of our owner accessible areas are Zone I and treatment areas are Zone II, which is also safe for unscreened people and pets.

As you get closer to the MRI, only trained professionals in proper attire are allowed near, as well as pets in need of scans that have been evaluated and prescreened. These areas are safely secured and monitored in our MRI trailer, so there’s no risk of accidentally stumbling upon them!

Preventing A Pet Emergency This Summer

As seen in Mainline Today

Here are some ways to prevent the most common summertime pet emergencies we see:

HEAT STROKE – NEVER leave your pet alone in the car on a warm day, regardless of whether or not the windows are open. Even if the weather outside is not extremely hot, the inside of a car acts like an oven; temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes, even on a cooler 70˚ day. Avoid vigorous exercise with your pet on warm days. When outside, opt for shady areas.

DOG BITES – A dog at the beach or park wagging his tail is not necessarily friendly and may not wish to interact with you or your pet. An aggressive dog may make himself appear larger (ears up and forward, fur on back puffed, and tail up or wagging), and an anxious or fearful dog may make himself appear smaller (crouched, head lowered, tail between legs, and ears flattened). Both may give verbal warnings of discomfort. If you see a dog exhibiting these signs, slowly back away and steer clear.

HIT BY CAR – When the weather is nice, we want to spend as much time as possible outdoors. This can lead to more open windows and doors, off-leash time, and even nodding off in your favorite summer chair. Wherever you’re having fun, be sure your pet is safely secured. If you are walking along roadways with your pet, keep the leash tight and know where he is at all times. It takes only a moment of distraction for your pet to get in front of a moving vehicle.

PICNIC FOOD INGESTION – Common picnic staples like corn on the cob, grapes, chicken bones, avocado, brownies, and onions can all be very dangerous for pets. Grapes, avocados, chocolate, and onions are very toxic, while bones and corn cobs can cause painful intestinal obstruction or injury that may even require emergency surgery to remove.

LEPTOSPIROSIS – Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that comes from the urine of wildlife. Your furry friend can contract this disease in a few ways, but most often from drinking stagnant water or coming into contact with wild or farm animals. If your pet has contracted leptospirosis, he will exhibit common symptoms of illness including loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and muscle tenderness. If your pet is not acting like himself and you notice any of these signs, consider it a pet emergency and be sure to bring him to your family veterinarian or an emergency hospital like VRC as soon as possible.

BRACHYCEPHALIC BREEDS (Short snout) – Dog breeds like pugs, bulldogs, Pekingese, and Boston terriers, and cat breeds like Persians and exotic shorthairs all have shorter snouts, which means that their airways can become more easily obstructed. When it is hot, dogs and cats pant to help release heat and cool their bodies. Heavy panting can lead to complete airway obstruction in some of these shorter snout breeds, which means that they might become unable to breathe. If you have a pet with a shorter snout, be sure to keep him cool at all times during the summer to prevent a pet emergency.

If you experience a pet emergency this summer, VRC in Malvern is open around the clock to provide medical care for your pet, even on weekends and holidays.

Laundry Detergent Pods: Dangerous for Pets, Too!

Teens all over the Internet made the news recently when they participated in the “Tide Pod Challenge” and ended up very ill, and in some cases died. As more people learned that laundry detergent pods could poison humans, the VRC team decided it was time to warn people that detergent pods—and laundry detergent in general—can also poison cats and dogs.

Why Are Laundry Detergent Pods Dangerous for Pets?

Laundry detergent pods are seen as more of a threat than regular laundry detergent due to the fact that they contain a concentrated formula of the laundry detergent. Plus, their small size makes them easy for many pets to chomp down on in one bite. All laundry detergent is dangerous for our pets, but cats and dogs are more likely to ingest more chemicals with a pod than they would liquid or powder detergents due to the pod’s small size. Additionally, since these pods are meant to dissolve in water, if your pet is playing with the pod and mouths it, your pet’s saliva can cause the outer material to dissolve and release the detergent into your pet’s mouth, even if they haven’t bitten down on the pod. Plus, in the event that your pet ingests an entire pod, it could become an obstruction in their gastrointestinal tract.

Since many pet owners don’t treat and store laundry detergent like other dangerous household chemicals means that animals have easier access to laundry detergent than other cleaners. Unfortunately, this can lead to detergent pods lying around where dogs and cats can easily pick them up and eat them. It can also lead to open containers of detergent in all forms, which, again, gives animals easy access to toxic chemicals.

While just a sniff or two of detergent probably won’t cause any issues for your pet, an ingestion can make pets very ill. The most common symptom of detergent poisoning is vomiting. The biggest problem with detergent is that it becomes foamy, and when your pet vomits, they may inhale this foam into the lungs. In the worst cases, this foam coats the animal’s airways and prevents oxygen exchange in the lungs, which leads to suffocations.

Additionally, detergent ingestion can cause coughing, difficulty breathing, and inflammation of the lungs. Dogs and cats may drool, gag, or retch after ingesting detergent. Watch for diarrhea as well. Pets that ingest detergent may also become lethargic.

Interestingly, dogs are much more likely to ingest detergent pods than cats. Out of all of the cases that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control has dealt with, 92 percent of detergent pod ingestions involved dogs, while only 6.5 percent of cases involved cats. In the case of liquid detergent, dogs are involved just under 60 percent of the time. Cats are involved in 41 percent of the liquid detergent cases, which is due, in part, to the fact that they are more likely to knock over bottles of the liquid detergent and get it on themselves. Cats then ingest the detergent during grooming.

What to Do If Your Pet Ingests Detergent Pods

No matter the kind of detergent—be it pod, liquid, or powder—you should contact a veterinarian right away if you suspect that your pet has ingested laundry detergent. If your regular veterinarian’s clinic is closed, either contact a poison control hotline or an emergency veterinarian.

For minor cases—those without vomiting—you may be instructed to give your pet a little water or milk to dilute the detergent. If your pet has any detergent in its fur or on its skin, you will need to wash that off as well. For pets that are vomiting or having difficulty breathing, veterinary care should be sought right away.

VRC knows that many pet owners probably never considered their laundry detergent to be a household toxin, but now that you are aware of the potential dangers of detergent poisoning in pets, you can do your best to keep your pets safe. We recommend keeping all laundry detergent out of reach of your pets. If there happens to be a spill, clean up the detergent or pods right away.

If your pet has ingested detergent or a detergent pod, you can contact VRC. Located in Malvern, Pennsylvania, VRC’s emergency veterinarians are well-equipped to deal with detergent poisonings. Call us today at 610-647-2950 if you have any questions or if your pet needs to see an emergency veterinarian.