This is a common question many ask themselves this time of the year! Animals, just like humans, are at risk for sunburn and skin cancer with overexposure to the suns UV rays. The best way to minimize UV exposure in pets is to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest, by keeping the pet inside or in a shaded area. If that is not possible, sunscreen can be applied to protect their skin.
Pets with light skin or fur and a short or thin hair coat are particularly at risk, or those who have suffered hair loss from allergies, surgery, or other medical conditions. Areas of the body most at risk for sunburn include the bridge of the nose, lips, tips of ears, abdomen, and any areas where hair is thin or absent.
There are some sunscreen products available that have specifically been developed for pets. However, you can also choose a sunscreen made for humans (or, more specifically, children) that is fragrance-free, non-staining, and contains UVA and UVB barriers, such as SPF 15 or 30. Do avoid human sunscreens though that have ingestion warnings, because these products may contain ingredients, such as octyl salicylate and zinc oxide, that can be toxic if licked by a dog or cat.
If you intend to use a sunscreen on a cat, verify that the product labeling specifically states that it is appropriate and safe for cats. Cats are particularly at risk from some of the chemical components of human sunscreens, and even some sunscreens that are considered safe for dogs may not be safe for cats.
Remember to reapply if you are out in the sun with your pet for an extended period of time. And as always, don’t forget to ensure they have access to fresh cool water at all times while out in the sun and heat!