If you have a sunbathing canine or feline at home, you need to read this!

By, Abby Foust, DVM, DACVD.
Veterinary Specialty Hospital.

Dogs and cats can develop skin problems from chronic sun exposure, just like humans! Therefore, when you are putting on sunscreen- don’t forget the pets!

The moderate weather and the high number of sunny days in southern California predispose dogs and cats living here to sun damage of their skin. Scarier still, these skin lesions can easily go unnoticed or be misdiagnosed as a skin infection or as skin allergies. Dogs with lightly pigmented skin and a thin hair coat such as Pit Bull Terriers, White Boxers, Dalmatians and American Bulldogs are at greater risk because they lack a substance in their skin called melanin which absorbs the sun’s harmful UV rays. The same is true for cats as any white-haired area, especially on the ears or face, is at an increased risk. Solar or actinic dermatitis is unsightly and uncomfortable to your pet and with time can become a malignant skin cancer such as a squamous cell carcinoma.

The best treatment is prevention. Avoid the sun between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm when the UV radiation is most intense. If it is impossible to avoid the sun, the application of a pet safe sun block (such as titanium dioxide) or a sunscreen should be applied to susceptible areas twice daily. If a sunscreen designed for animal use is not available, choose a product that is safe for babies with SPF 30 or greater. Keep in mind that if ingested, zinc oxide and PABA can be toxic so these ingredients should be avoided. A sun protective shirt or a sunsuit can be used to safeguard the skin on the trunk and abdomen.

If you think your pet may have a suspicious skin lesion, please make an appointment to see your veterinarian ASAP.


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Photo Credits: Dr. Nicole Boynosky BVMS, MS, DACVD, Dr. Laura Stokking PhD, DVM, DACVD