Pets can sunburn, too, especially those with light, thin coats. Get them some sunscreen | Home/Garden

Only wicked pet

Protecting a pet’s skin from the sun is an afterthought for most pet owners. Especially if the pets have thick or dark coats. It’s hard enough keeping the sunscreen on the kids, and now I’m telling you the pets need it, too? Yes, I am. We are conscious of protecting […]

Protecting a pet’s skin from the sun is an afterthought for most pet owners. Especially if the pets have thick or dark coats. It’s hard enough keeping the sunscreen on the kids, and now I’m telling you the pets need it, too?

Yes, I am.

We are conscious of protecting our skin from harmful UV rays and the risks that come along with exposure to the sun, but just as with humans, UV rays can be harmful to pets, too. In fact, dogs and cats can sunburn and even get various types of skin cancer. Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors are at risk, and some pets are more vulnerable than others. Therefore, they should have limited exposure to the sun. 

PET SUNSCREEN: There are sunscreens on the market for pets. Who knew! I guess anything is possible, because my dog, Romeo, has his very own dermatologist now, but that’s a topic for another time. Whether a pet needs sunscreen can depend on many factors, such as how much time they spend outside, during what part of the day they are outdoors, and the color and thickness of their coat. 

COAT COLOR: The lighter the coat, the more dangerous the sun can be. If a pet has a light-colored coat, or a relatively thin coat, it is a good idea to apply sunscreen as a precaution any time it will be outdoors on a sunny day, even in the winter.

For example, white dogs with pink noses are considered the most vulnerable. As a Shih Tzu, Romeo is a long-haired dog, but the hair on his back is thin and light, and I can see his skin through it. Therefore, sunscreen is a good idea for him. My dog Stewie, on the other hand, has black hair and a very thick coat, so I cannot see his skin on his back at all. 

NOT ALL PRODUCTS ARE EQUAL: Human sunscreen cannot be used on pets. Make sure to use pet-safe sunscreen that is specifically for a cat or dog, as some sunscreens that are OK for dogs but not good for cats, and vice versa. For all pets, when choosing a sunscreen, avoid those containing PABA, zinc oxide and octisalate, or any other salicylates, especially in areas where the pet could reach and lick it off. It’s best to consult a veterinarian before applying any medications to pets. 

WHAT AREAS TO PROTECT: When applying sunscreen, the areas to pay attention to are the ears, belly (which often has little hair), and the tip of the nose. These are the places most likely to get the most exposure and to easily burn. 

As summer approaches, it is a good idea to keep pets inside during the hottest parts of the day. When they are outdoors, make sure there is plenty of shade available. If the family pet likes to sunbathe in a windowsill, be aware that they can still get sunburn.

Now is also a good time to remind pet owners that the ground is heating up and our pet’s paw pads easily burn, so we want to keep walks to the early morning and evening times when the temperatures are cooler.

If any suspicious spots or bumps appear on the pet’s skin, get it checked out by a vet to get a proper diagnosis. If cancer, and if caught early, most are very treatable. 

Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO), a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For topic suggestions, email [email protected] or for more info on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.

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