Cats and Sunburn

Sunburn in Cats

Just like humans, cats can get sunburn too. Over time the damage caused  can increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma which is a skin cancer(or solar dermatitis) which occurs when the skin becomes damaged from overexposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.  It usually caused the skin to become reddened, sore, tender and hot to the touch. In extreme cases the skin can start to blister, peel and become itchy.

What Causes it?

White cats don’t have a pigment called melanin in their skin, and melanin is what protects us humans from sunlight. It’s why we tan in the sun; our skin is reacting to the level of light to prevent damage. If skin can’t produce melanin to counteract the damaging effects of the light, the skin will be affected.

Multiple occurrences of sunburn over a number of years can cause squamous cell carcinoma.

White cats are the most likely to be affected, and it’s usually around the ears. The tips and edges of their ears will be pinker or redder than usual, tender and hot to the touch. Any other exposed areas of skin need to be checked.

Aside from extreme cases where the skin becomes blistered, sunburn can be diagnosed at home by checking your cat thoroughly after time spent in the sun. Just like sunburn in humans, prevention is better than cure. Applying a pet-safe sunscreen will make a huge difference to your pet; choose one that is SPF 15 or higher. Keep them out of the sun at the hottest times of day (usually around noon) and provide them with plenty of shady spots.

If your cat is already sunburned and it is severe, speak to your vet immediately who may prescribe a course of oral or topical steroids. If the skin cracks and becomes infected your cat might need antibiotics.

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