Protecting Your Pets from Sunburn: Tips and Advice from a Vet Nurse

Just like us, our furry family members can get sunburnt on sunny days – especially if they have a light coloured fur or a thin or patchy coat. And as with human sunburn, it can be painful to our pets, and the skin damage it causes has the possibility to lead to cancer.

However, there are ways to protect your pets from the sun’s harmful rays this summer as PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing explains.

“The most common places for pets to get sunburnt are their ears, nose, eyelids and tummy,” explains Nina. “And they are especially at risk if they are light coloured, so ginger or white, or have any thin fur or bald patches.”

Preventing sunburn

Nina says that if it’s sunny enough for you to need sun cream, your pet may need protection too. She advises:

  1. Keep them out of the sun at the hottest parts of the day, where possible. Avoid walking your dog in the middle of hot days when the sun is strongest – instead, stick to the mornings and evenings. And if it is an extremely hot day, sometimes it’s best to avoid walking them altogether on that day.
  2. Don’t allow your pet to sunbathe in direct sunlight. Make sure they always have access to plenty of shade – trees and shrubs make great shade for dogs and cats, and a blanket draped over part of their run is an easy way to create shade for rabbits and guinea pigs. Just always make sure they have good ventilation and a breeze flowing through if you are using a blanket over their run.
  3. Apply sunblock. Apply sunscreen to any areas where your pet’s fur is thin i.e. their nose, ear tips and tummy. Make sure the sunblock you are using is pet/child safe, SPF30 or higher, and waterproof. Apply at least 15 minutes before your pet goes outside, discourage them from licking it off, and remember to reapply as necessary.

Sunburn symptoms

“If your pet has already suffered with sunburn, symptoms you may spot are:

  • Redness
  • Crusting
  • Flaking
  • Itching
  • Blisters
  • Pain

Treatment and medication

“If you spot symptoms of sunburn in your pets, it’s important to know how to treat them,” Nina adds.

“Mild sunburn often heals within a few days. You can help to make your pet feel more comfortable with easy treatment at home. Use cold compresses to gently cool your pet’s skin using something like a flannel or towel that has been wet under a cold tap.

“If your pet has sunburn, it’s important to keep them out of direct sunlight until their skin has healed and use sunblock or sun protective clothing for those with exposed skin on their back or sides to protect their skin if they need to go outside.

“If your pet is very sunburnt, or appears to be in pain, you should contact your vet for advice immediately. They may offer treatment such as pain relief, anti-bacterial creams and a protective cone collar ”

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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