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Can pets get sunburned?

Our pets’ skin is susceptible to sunburn, just like ours. Dark pigmented animals less often suffer sunburn, but any light-colored areas can potentially be damaged by sun exposure. Areas with thin hair (lips, nose, eyelids, ear tips and underbelly) or light-colored areas exposed after grooming for a summer clip are the most problematic.

Sunburn usually first presents as redness, which can progress to peeling or blistering, depending on the severity of the burn. Unlike some humans, pets don’t usually “tan” in these areas though some pigment change can occur over time with chronic exposure. These areas are also very susceptible to the damaging effect of the sun leading to skin changes and skin cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma.

Protect your pets from sun exposure during summer outings with pet-approved sunscreen, SPF-rated pet clothes (or kids’ shirts) and keeping pets indoors between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Don’t forget that the sun can reflect up from light surfaces such as sidewalks, affecting the skin of the underbelly as well, so protect that area during walks even though it may not be exposed directly. Select a fragrance-free, non-staining sunscreen with protection from UVA and UVB rays, SPF 30 or higher. Just like us, remember to reapply often and liberally.

If applying sunscreen to cats, please be sure it’s approved safe as cats are more susceptible to several toxins than our dog friends. Baby-safe human sunscreen is typically considered okay for pets if it is labeled safe for ingestion.


Brought to you by:

In partnership with Willamette Veterinary Hospital & Eastgate Veterinary Clinic

Jilinda Lewis, DVM Ark Animal Hospital

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