Can my pet get sunburn?

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On a sunny day, keeping your pet protected when exposed to UV rays might not be at the top of your list. It’s true that they wear permanent fur coats, but it’s still so important that our four-legged companions are kept safe in the sun. Here are our top tips for when the heat is well and truly on.

Your pet’s coat will provide a certain amount of protection, but it isn’t the impenetrable barrier you might expect. This is even more the case for cats and dogs with light-coloured fur, as their skin doesn’t have the pigmentation that usually protects other pets from sun damage. But, even if your pet has a thicker or darker coat, their ears, nose and tummy can all still get sunburnt – especially if they’re a lighter pink colour.

So when do our pets need protection? We find this rule of thumb is the simplest: if it’s hot enough outside that you need protection, then it’s hot enough that your pet will also need protection. It’s not all bad news though, as there are still ways to have fun in the sun without the risks.

Sun safety tips

Keep pets indoors between 10 am and 3 pm as these are peak hours for sun intensity.

Make sure your pet always has access to clean drinking water.

Give your pet access to a shaded spot if you’re outside or spending time in the garden. This can be as simple as placing a blanket under a tree or using an umbrella.

Taking your dog out in the car? Remember that you should never leave them in the car on their own, even if the car is in the shade. Dogs in hot cars can develop heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes, and so leaving them alone is never an option.

Buy a pet-safe sunscreen for exposed areas of your pet’s skin, such as the tips of their ears, their nose, inner legs and their belly. If a pet cream isn’t available, pick one designed for babies above SPF15, making sure it’s fragrance-free and doesn’t contain zinc oxide, as this can be toxic to pets.

Better safe than sorry

If you need any more convincing that you should be slathering your pet in sun cream, remember that pets are just as much at risk of developing skin tumours as we are. Those most at risk will be pets with short, white coats or light-coloured skin. Not all tumours are a result of sun exposure, but it is one of the leading causes of cancer. Prevention truly is vital!

As the sun continues to shine, keep these helpful tips in mind to keep your pet protected, and remember to visit your vet if you notice anything change on your pet’s skin. A qualified vet can properly assess any redness, sores, scabs or discolouration, ruling out any issues or investigating further if necessary. Cancer is a scary thought, but many cases are treatable, especially in cases that are caught early.

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