It may seem a little odd, but remember, just like humans, cats and dogs come in all shapes and sizes, degrees of hairiness – and skin colour.
For this reason, some breeds of cat and dog are more prone to sunburn than others. And just like humans, sunburn can lead to more serious health risks such as cancer. If you think your cat or dog may be in danger of sunburn, read on to find out how to combat UV rays so that your precious pet can still enjoy the outdoors without discomfort.
Pets more susceptible to sunburn
Cats and dogs with fair skin and light-coloured or thin fur, are in danger of sunburn. This may be due to their breed, but can also occur only during their puppy or kitten coat, or because of sparse hair in their old age. Alternatively, your pet may have a thick coat, but a little white nose or sensitive skin around their ears that often gets a bit pink in the hotter months. Remember your Mum telling you not to forget to sunscreen the tops of your ears? This applies to your pet too! Always be on the lookout for exposed, fair skin on your cat or dog when they’re playing outdoors or basking in the sun coming through a window.
Breeds most likely to need sun protection.
There are a few breeds that are typically at risk of sunburn. When buying a pet that belongs to one of these breeds, you should always consider the climate and environment that they will be living in, and ensure you can provide proper sun protection for them.
- Chinese Crested
- West Highland Terrier
- English Pointer
- Jack Russell
- Boxer (white)
- Dogo Argentino
- Devon Rex
- Cornish Rex
Sun protection for dogs
The first important thing that we need to note here is that human sunscreen IS NOT suitable for dogs. Most human sunscreen contains zinc oxide which is poisonous to your furry friend. Some also include para-aminobenzoic acids (PABA) which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, bone marrow changes and liver damage. Another ingredient to avoid is octisalate, a salicylate common in sunscreen. This ingredient is okay for dogs in VERY SMALL doses, but as always with our pets, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid it altogether. You can buy pet-specific sunscreen online or in select pet shops and veterinary clinics, but always double check the ingredients to ensure that it doesn’t contain zinc or salicylate. You may also be able to find baby sunscreen that does not include these ingredients.
There’s also a range of sun-protective gear that you can buy for your dog if he or she doesn’t find wearing coats or harnesses distressing. Just always be wary that the canine “rashy” (rashguard jacket) may not cover the entirety of your pup’s skin, especially if they love laying with their tummy exposed to the sun! For more information on how to keep your furry friend cool during the heat of Summer, see our handy guide here.
Sun protection for cats
Providing sun protection for cats is a little trickier than for dogs. Because cats groom themselves by licking their fur regularly, anything that you put on their coat is likely to be ingested. This makes applying sunscreen much riskier as both zinc oxide and salicylates are extremely toxic for cats. Your feline friend should NEVER come in contact with either. For this reason, it’s much harder to come across cat-specific sunscreen.
Many vets recommend using baby sunscreen (always remembering to check those ingredients on the back!) sparingly on your cat’s most sensitive areas such as the nose and ears. It’s also advised to try and keep kitty inside during the sunniest parts of the day; late morning and early afternoon. Sheltered play areas are also a great idea – what cat doesn’t love a good tunnel? We know that lounging in the sun is many felines’ idea of The Best Time, but it’s important to keep a close eye on just how much time they are spending basking in sunlight (even indoors!) if they’re prone to sunburn.
In summary, you should always ensure that the sunscreen you put on your pet does not include the following ingredients:
- Zinc oxide
- Para-aminobenzoic acids (PABA)
Always consult your vet
While you can buy sunscreen made specifically for pets, like many pet products, there is always the chance that your cat or dog could be allergic to an ingredient in the formula. This is why it’s always a good idea to consult your vet on recommended sunscreen brands for your pet in particular. If your pet is prone to allergies or has sensitive skin, we would always suggest seeing a vet before applying sunscreen. Furthermore, spot testing sunscreen on your dog for 24-hours before lathering up their entire coat for the first time is advised.