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Going To The Beach With Your Pet

Jul 11, 2008
At this time of year, I usually see a few white cats with very sore noses. The reason for this is that white cats have very little pigment and are prone to sunburns and skin cancer. For dogs, sunburn is common in pale and short-haired breeds, usually on the bridge of the nose, the groin, abdomen and insides of the legs.

Your pet's belly is prone to sunburn because of sunlight that reflects up from the sidewalk, or if your pet spends a lot of time at the beach, she can get sunburn from sun reflecting up from the hot sand.

Sunburn and excessive, repeated exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer, in particular squamous cell carcinoma. This is the same in dogs and cats as it is in humans. Therefore, breeds such as boxers and Weimaraners - breeds that are predisposed to cancer - need extra protection from the sun.

Sunburn also may cause skin ulceration - this can leave the skin susceptible to opportunistic bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections. Excessive exposure to the sun may also exacerbate autoimmune skin diseases, in which the immune system attacks skin cells, such as pemphigus and lupus.

So what can you, as a concerned pet owner, do?

To protect pets from sunburn and its consequences, apply sunblock on the small susceptible areas of skin, such as the bridge of the nose and the ear tips. You can also apply a line of sunblock along any part in the fur along the head or back. For cats, sunblock is usually sufficient. For dogs, sunblock is usually not effective on the abdomen, since it can rub off in tall grass, wash off at the beach, or be easily licked off by the dog or its playmates.

There are spandex-type bodysuits on the market designed to block UV radiation. I highly recommend these for dogs who spend a lot of time outside, especially dogs who visit the beach. Although the idea of bringing a bodysuit-clad dog to the park or beach may sound ridiculous or embarrassing, it may be the most effective and important sun protection you can provide for your pet. Doggie bodysuits are common at some beaches, and they don't look ridiculous if all the other dogs are wearing one

You can easily find sunscreen made for pets at quality pet supply stores, or you can simply apply zinc oxide or PABA-free sunscreen to your pet. Just be very careful not to get the sunblock in your pet's eyes. And now that you're prepared, enjoy the dog (and cat) days of summer!
About the Author
Before you head out to the beach with your pet this summer this summer, make sure you protect your dog from sunburn and excessive UV exposure.
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