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.