Sunburn and Skin Cancer on Pets is a Real Thing July 08 2020

You may think, "What? How can my dog or cat get a sunburn under all that fur and end up with skin cancer?," but it's true. According to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in San Diego, about 33% of tumors in dogs start in the skin and about 1/3 of those are cancerous. For cats, about 25% of all cancers are skin. And here's something else... the sun can reflect off the beach or sidewalk and hit the bald areas of your dog's belly causing cancer (the belly is the primary location for skin cancer to form). 

Dogs with pink, pale skin and short coats, such as bull terriers, pointers, greyhounds, white pit bulls, and white boxers are particularly vulnerable. Also are white or hairless cats, and those with pink or pale noses. So what should you do to protect them? Here are a few tips:

1) Dodge the sun's strongest rays by taking them out early-morning or evening.... generally anytime Before 10am and After 4pm is ok. If they are outside during those hot day hours, make sure they have access to shade and fresh, cool water.

2) Dress your dog in sun-safe clothing with a UPF rating of 30 or above. You can find coats, visors, and belly bands to name a few here.

3) Apply a pet friendly Sunscreen. We offer both a Spray Sunscreen and a Balm Sunscreen for your choosing. Apply the sunscreen to the tips of the nose and ears, belly, legs, toes and anywhere else the skin is exposed. Reapply every 2-3 hours for upkeep or more frequently if they go in the water. Our sunscreen is chemical free and safe for them to lick!

4) Avoid getting your dog or cat shaved too short. Maintain at least 1/2 inch of fur during the hot months; buzz cuts can make them more vulnerable to sunburn and skin damage. 

5) Tint your windows. Cats especially love to sunbathe in windows. Install a glare-reducing insulating film with UV-filtering protection. If you find one with a UV protection of at least 90% your cat can sunbathe away without worry. 

5) Perform monthly Nose-to-Tail checks. That means checking them over to look for any woulds that won't heal, lumps, raised bumps, or crusty spots.  If you find any, have your vet check them out as these can be early signs of skin cancer.

And what if they do end up with a Sunburn? Get them into a cool, well-ventilated space and wrap their lower body in a cool (not cold!), wet towel to help lower the body temperature. Depending on how bad the burn is, you may need to go to the vet for additional fluids and treatment.

If you are interested in reading more on the different types of skin cancer Dogs can get, go here, and for Cats, here.

Hopefully this post will help you understand the dangers your pet can face during sun exposure and will help you get prepared for the sunny months ahead!