Summer is a wonderful time to get outdoors with your pet to enjoy a variety of healthy activities.

Whether or not your pet is at the peak of good health or recently diagnosed with disease, including cancer, you can still pursue fun in the sun together with a few guidelines to promote maximum well-being.

Have you been slathering the sunscreen on yourself, hiding under a large-brimmed hat and celebrity-size sunglasses, and wearing the latest in UV clothing to protect your healthy skin from sun exposure that could lead to skin disease?   We have all learned more about sun exposure these last few years that keeps us safe from overdoing it.

Did you know that our pets are also vulnerable to sun-induced skin lesions?

Pets with light skin and or short or thin hair coat are prone to sunburn, skin cancer, and other solar-induced diseases (think about white haired cats or dogs in particular).  Pets who have suffered hair loss from allergies, surgery, or cancer radiation therapy are also at risk.  According to an article published in Veterinary Partner® by The VIN Dermatology Consultants, sunburn in pets can appear as red skin or hair loss.

The most common sites for pet sunburn to appear:

  • Bridge of the nose
  • Ear tips
  • Around the lips (muzzle area)
  • Any low pigmentation area (ie. groin, inside legs, abdomen)

Alexander Werner, VMD, DACVD of the Animal Dermatology Center in Studio City, California writing for Clinician’s Brief notes that some breeds and species are more likely to sunbathe.

In “Top 5 Sun-Induced Skin Lesions in Dogs,” he lists these diseases affecting dogs from sun-exposure:

  • Solar dermatitis (sunburn)
  • Hemangioma
  • Hemangiosarcoma lesions
  • Actinic keratosis
  • Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common cutaneous malignancy in dogs

So when you take precautions for yourself and your family this summer, also take precautions for your pets to reduce sun exposure.  Avoid the sun between 10 am and 3 pm.   Use a sunscreen product safe for pets that is fragrance-free, non-staining and contains UVA and UVB barriers similar to SPF15 or 30 in humans.  AVOID PRODUCTS WITH ZINC or other ingredients with ingestion warnings, because pets that lick these ingredients could have toxic reactions.

If pet sunscreen application isn’t for you, try new UV protective clothing or sun suits specifically made for pets, especially great for pets who enjoy sunbathing on their backs.  For indoor cats that bask by the window, use sunscreen film on the window to block the rays.   If your pet is a lover of car rides, especially in convertibles with the top down, take precautions from sun overexposure in the car, too.  Reminder:  Never leave your pet in a hot car.   Vehicles heat up much more quickly than the outside temperature.

Hydration is for every member of the family, including pets.   Be certain to have access to plentiful, clean water for all activities.   This is especially important for pets exposed to the higher temperatures of summer.  Monitor your pet’s activity levels and be sure they are staying hydrated and have a place to cool down as needed.  Pets are just as prone to heatstroke as people.

Pre-plan for your pets as they enjoy summer activities with you as you would for all members of your family and you’ll have a happy healthy season of adventures and fun.