Pets can’t get sunburn because they have fur, right? Wrong. Pets do suffer from sunburn, especially those with pink skin and short coats or white ears and pink noses. Pets that have recently had a summer cut or have been shaved for surgery are also at higher risk. Hairless breeds like Sphynx and Mexican Hairless are naturally more prone.
How can I protect my pet from sunburn?
It is perfectly safe to use human sunscreen or specially-formulated pet sunscreen on your pets though it is best to avoid the aerosol-type sprays as these can get into their eyes. Apply sunscreen to the at-risk areas (pink tummies, white ears etc) in the mornings and every two hours throughout the day if possible.
What about my cat?
If your cat constantly licks off the sunscreen you apply, you might have to consider trying to keep him indoors during the hottest parts of the day. If you work from home you can do this by offering a treat or wet food at the same time every morning (around 10am) and then have a short play session with them. This will keep them entertained and relaxed about being locked up.
Try to keep them indoors until about 3pm. If this isn’t possible then you need to be extra vigilant about their ears, nose and tummy or anywhere there are pink bits. If you notice scabbing, colour change or sores then take them to your vet immediately. The earlier the vet intervenes and treats affected areas, the better the outcome.
If your cat has scabs on his white ears it may be sunburn but it could also be an early warning sign of cancer. A vet check and biopsy is needed, especially if the scabs persist for more than a week.
Protecting a white dog
If your dog is white and prone to burning his nose or crusting and bleeding of the nose, set up a shady area that he is confined to during the day. Crusting noses can also be a sign of other diseases including skin cancer and auto-immune disease so it is essential to have the area biopsied so your vet can prescribe the correct treatment for the condition.