People put a lot of care and consideration in keeping themselves safe from the sun and heat during the summer months. Applying sunscreen regularly is a great practice and important in protecting ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Of course, drinking water and finding shade when necessary are important, as well. However, pets are susceptible to sunburns, too, and excessive heat can be life-threatening. Vets suggest taking these precautionary measures to keep your furry friends safe during the summer months. Here are some summer safety tips for pets.
Dogs and cats can get sunburns from too much sun exposure just like their owners. Fur can protect the skin to an extent, but you should use pet-safe sunscreen if your pet is outside for an extended period. Specifically, if the pet has short hair, thin hair, no hair, or hair with light pigment, they are more likely to get sunburns. Therefore, these pets require more sunscreen. Focus sunscreen application on the nose and ears while avoiding the eyes as it can cause burning and irritation. You want to do your best to keep your pet from ingesting the sunscreen which should be applied to your pet every three to four hours. Going for a swim can be a great way for you and your pet to cool off; however, just like you reapply sunscreen afterward, you should do the same for your pet.
A sunscreen designed specifically for pets is always the best option. Human sunscreen can contain ingredients like zinc oxide that could cause side effects in pets such as gastrointestinal problems. It is important to get pet-safe sunscreens that are fragrance-free and waterproof. Vets recommend an SPF of 15 or higher that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Pet-safe sunscreens can come in sprays, gels, and creams.
Recommended sunscreens include Virbac Pet Guard Gel with Sunscreen and Doggles Pet Sunscreen.
Pet Sun Gear
When keeping your pets protected from the sun, special attire is an alternative to sunscreen. Solar-protective pet clothing can help protect your dog or cat from sun-related problems. This includes hats, eyewear, and shirts. In addition, covers can be attached to exercise pens. This concept is similar to using beach umbrellas, and these covers can be used as sun protection for pets that spend a lot of time outside.
Risk of Sun Exposure
There are several risks associated with excessive sun exposure. Sunburns, whether minor or severe, are the most immediate risk for your pets. Like people, sunburns can be painful for your pets and may lead to skin peeling. Too much skin peeling can cause infections which are not only extremely painful for your dog but very tricky to treat. Severe sunburns or too much damage to the skin can result in skin cancer which is painful and life-threatening.
Sun protection is crucial in preventing sunburns and skin cancer. However, sun protection does not protect your pet from the heatstroke. Heatstroke is incredibly dangerous for pets and can lead to death. It is caused by the body overheating as a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures, typically without water. Symptoms of heatstroke include drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement, and collapse. If your pets are showing these symptoms, you should immediately remove them from the heat and call your veterinarian to tell them you’re on the way.
Although heat stroke is dangerous, it is easy to prevent. Ensure that your pet has access to shade and water. If temperatures reach extreme highs, avoid bringing your pet outdoors and instead keep them in an air-conditioned space. If there is any uncertainty leave your pet at home to avoid any risk of being in a place without shade, water, or air conditioning.
Other Practices to Ensure Pet Safety
In addition to applying sunscreen, and providing access to shade and water, these are additional practices to ensure the safety of your pets this summer:
- Never leave your dog in the car.
- Ensure your pets have access to shade when they are outdoors.
- Take your pets on walks during the cooler hours of the day (before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.).
- While walking your pets, try to keep them on cool, grassy areas. Stray away from hot cement as it can burn their paws.
- Consider cutting or shaving the hair of dogs with long coats.
- Put a lifejacket on your dogs if they like cooling off in the lake or ocean. Specially, if they are a breed that doesn’t swim as well or is under a certain weight. Breeds that aren’t known for their swimming prowess include Shih Tzu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Boxer, Corgi, Chow Chow, Basset Hound, Bulldog, Maltese, Dachshund, and Pug.