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Sunburns in Cats and Dogs.

Summer is nearly upon us and with a rise of sunny, warm weather, it’s important to know how to keep your pets cool and how to prevent, spot, and/or treat sunburns on our pets! It may seem weird but dogs and cats can get sunburns like us humans and those burns can get very serious. There are ways we can prevent sunburns in our pets but if it does happen, there are treatments and home remedies! If your pet does get sunburned, it’ll be important to talk to your vet about treatment.

The best way to deal with sunburns is prevention and planning. After months and months of winter and overcast skies, it can be so tempting to just take to the trails or the parks every sunny chance you can get! But like us, our canine friends can get overheated and sunburned if they spend too much time in the sun. Make sure that your pup doesn’t spend too much time in the direst sun and has consistent access to shade and cool, fresh water.

If you decide to go to a park during the day for a picnic or outing, try bringing an umbrella (or some source of shade) for your pup so they don’t spend too much time in the direct sun. Some dogs might even tolerate a sun hat! Plus, there’s even dog friendly sunscreen that you can get! Sunscreen made for humans might not be the best thing to use on our pups, as the dog friendly kind can prevent potential harm that can come from licking the area with the sunscreen and ingesting it. There are several dog and cat friendly sunscreens you can get to help protect your pet from UV rays. I can’t personally recommend any sunscreen in particular and I recommend that you talk to your vet/do your own research about sunscreens before getting one.

Amazon and some pet stores will carry appropriate sunscreens, as sunscreens for humans contain ingredients that are dangerous to our pets. Zinc oxide, for example, is an ingredient in sunscreens meant for humans but it is toxic to dogs. If your dog ingests zinc oxide (through licking the sunscreen after it’s been applied for example), it could damage your dog’s red blood cells. And for cats, salicylates like aspirin, can make them dangerously sick.

In addition to how direct sun can impact our pets, there’s one important indirect way the sunny, warm weather can cause problems for our pets. The hot pavement from roads and sidewalks can actually severely damage their paws. If the pavement is too hot for our feet, it’s definitely too hot for our pups to walk on! Walking on hot pavement can burn their paws and cause all sorts of problems.

Going out in the middle of the day during the height of summer sun and heat is probably not the best for our four legged friends. Instead, try going on walks in the cooler parts of the day (i.e. late evenings), as this cooler time of the day means your pup is less likely to overheat or get burned. Plus, after a certain point, the pavement does cool down enough for their paws. The nice thing is that with the longer days, we have more sunlight for evening adventures! And parks with lots of shade are also great during this time of the year.

Sadly, there might be times in which your pet might get sunburned. Some dogs are more prone to burns for a myriad of reasons: they have fair skin, are hairless or have thin fur, or have patches in their fur. If your pet does get burned, it’s important to talk to your vet about treatment options, as there are some medicated sprays and lotions to help with your pet’s skin.

But there are other things you can do to help your pet feel better. Spraying cold water on the affected areas every half hour or so can help reduce the pain or a cold compress/ice on the area can also work! Oatmeal soaks and aloe vera creams can both help soothe and heal any damaged skin. Like with sunscreens, it’ll be important to have solutions or creams that are dog friendly and aren’t particularly toxic. Again, it’ll be important to talk with your vet if you use creams or remedies meant for people to make sure that you’re not using something with potentially toxic ingredients.

Like us, dogs and cats are capable of getting sunburned and many of the prevention methods are very similar to preventing sunburns in people. Many of the tips here are focused on dogs but can be used to help keep cats safe from sunburns as well! As the days get longer and the sun comes out more, it’ll be important to keep our pets safe and healthy from sun rays and hot pavement while also having a blast on adventures. Prevention can be the easiest way to deal with these issues but there are treatment options if something does happen.

Keep cool and sunburn free over the next few months!

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