Yeah, it’s getting hotter out there. Here in Miami it’s already too hot to run while the sun is out. Basic gardening and goat-tending has already bronzed my exposed limbs. And swimming training will soon see my back turn five shades lighter than the front of me (even 50 spf can’t control some things).
Skin cancer checkups with my dermatologist are on my yearly calendar. But how about our pets? Should we be worried for them, too?
Yep. It’s time we became aware that some pets are susceptible to the sun’s rays. While their densely haired skin (relative to ours) protects them well, it’s not always a certainty they’ll avoid sunburn in exposed areas.
Here are the major risk groups:
- White or light-colored cats’ ear tips and noses.
- Pale-colored pets with thinning haircoats (due to allergies, thyroid disease, etc.)
- The barely-haired bridge of the nose just beyond the smushy wet tip.
These pets should be sunscreened. But until now, no sunscreen has ever been approved for use in dogs. Though I’ve still always recommended baby sunblock and full-sun avoidance for these high-risk patients, I’ve had to warn my clients of their potentially toxic effects.
Zinc oxide, for example, should never be used. It can cause a profound anemia when ingested in even seemingly small quantities. Baby products don’t contain the zinc but there’s always a risk.
After all, when tests have never been done on pets, it’s impossible to know whether even baby products are safe to use on them. Some dermatologists have taken my approach and recommended their use anyway. For example, Dr. Mark Macina, dermatologist at the Animal Medical Center in New York, has been using Bullfrog on his patients with no untoward effects.
But now there’s been more work done to ensure our pets’ safety with these products. The FDA has even granted approval to Epi-Pet’s Sunscreen (only for horses and dogs, though). Doggles has a 15 spf spray out and Nutri-Vet carries a 15 spf lotion and spray.
Though baby stuff may work just as well at half the price, they really might be toxic when ingested. The pet-approved products are probably your best bet—definitely best if your pet has a licking fetish.
As with all sunscreens, frequent re-application is necessary, as is the use of a significant quantity.
So do you feel safer now or did I just give you one new thing to worry about? Well, at least you know what to do this summer when Fluffy’s new close summer crop leaves her pink skin exposed to the UV rays. Enjoy!
Image: absolutimages / Shutterstock