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It may seem strange that a cat or dog could get sunburned, especially seeing as they always wear a fur coat. But as UV rays make no distinction between humans and animals, protecting your pets from sun exposure is as important as protecting yourself.

So while it’s true that your pet’s coat provides some protection, this isn’t the impenetrable barrier you would expect. In cats and dogs that have white or light-coloured fur, their skin lacks the pigmentation that helps protect them from sun damage. But even if your pet has a thick, dark coat, their ears, nose and tummy can all be susceptible to sunburn – particularly if they’re a light, pinkish colour.

So how do we know when our furry friends need protection? It’s simple: if it’s hot enough outside for you, then it’s hot enough for them. Still, there are ways to have fun in the sun minus the risks:

  • Try to keep your pets indoors during the hours of peak sun intensity (between 10 am and 3 pm).
  • Ensure your pets always have access to clean drinking water.
  • When outside or in your garden, provide a shaded place for them to shelter from the sun, like a blanket under a tree or a makeshift tent using an umbrella.
  • If taking your dog out in the car with you, remember to never leave them inside the car alone. Even when parked in the shade, there is a risk of overheating.
  • Apply pet-safe sunscreen on areas of exposed skin, like the tips of the ears, nose, inside legs and belly. If you can’t get hold of pet sun cream, you can apply one designed for babies or children so long as it’s above SPF 15, fragrance-free and does not contain zinc oxide, as this can be toxic to pets.

If you feel a little silly rubbing sunblock on your pet, remember that cats and dogs can be prone to skin tumours. Those most at risk are pets with short, white coats and light-coloured skin (like white cats and staffies). And while not all tumours are caused by exposure to the sun, it’s one of the leading causes of skin cancer. This is why prevention is vital!

This summer, keep the few tips above in mind and always see a vet if you notice changes to your pet’s skin. Anything like redness, sores, scabs, hair loss or discolouration needs to be checked. We know the thought of cancer is scary, but many cases of skin cancer are treatable, especially if caught early.

Our four-legged friends love to lie in the sun, so why deprive them of one of life’s best pleasures? All you need is a little awareness.