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Going to the beach with your pet

I recently saw a white cat with a very sore nose. The cat, named Johnny Cash, loves the sun. And unfortunately, white cats have very little pigment and are prone to sunburns and skin cancer. Sunburn is also common in pale and short-haired dogs, usually on the bridge of the nose, the abdomen, groin, 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 repeated, excessive exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma, in dogs and cats as it does in humans. Therefore, breeds that are predisposed to cancer, such as boxers and Weimaraners, 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 is a pet owner to do?

To protect your pets from sunburn and the related consequences, apply sunblock on the small susceptible areas of skin, such as along the bridge of the nose, and on the ear tips. It's a good idea to also apply a line of sunblock along any part in your pet's fur, along the head or back. For your cat, sunblock is usually sufficient. However, for dogs, sunblock is usually not effective on the abdomen. Sunblock on the abdomen can rub off in tall grass, wash off at the beach (in the water or rolling on the sand), or be easily licked off by the dog or her 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 find sunscreen made for pets at pet supply stores, or you can apply zinc oxide or PABA-free sunscreen. Be careful not to get the sunblock in your pet's eyes. Now that you're prepared, enjoy the dog (and cat) days of summer.

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