Summertime and the livin’ is easy…that is, until your pet gets into some summertime trouble.

Knowing what hazards are threatening your pet during these hot months can help prevent an unnecessary emergency trip to the vet. While you can’t always protect them, your pets are counting on you to keep them safe whenever possible.

Common sense tells you not to let your children play in the sun all day without the proper protection, right? Well, did you know animals could get sunburned, too? If it’s bad enough, your pet could end up with blisters that can lead to an infection. Yelp!

If your dog or cat is left out in the sun for a few hours or more, with no chance of escaping to a shaded area and is obviously experiencing discomfort, or if blistering has occurred, get to the vet. You want your pet to be treated as soon as possible.

The danger is not just temporary. Repeated exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer, especially if your pet has light-colored fur. White cats are especially susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma on their ears. If your cat goes outside in the sun, keep a close eye for any changes in the appearance of her ears.

If your pet does end up with a mild case of sunburn, here are some tips to help ease the pain:

  • Compress it … with cold compresses, that is. A washcloth or hand towel soaked in ice water will work well. Simply wring it out and place it gently over the red and pink areas.
  • Serve up some oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal mixed in a bath will go a long way in soothing irritated skin.
  • Hey mister! Misting your pet ever 30 minutes or so with cool water will ease the pain.
  • Reach inside your medicine cabinet. Aspirin? Never! But a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel and applied a few times a day will help to soothe the stinging.
  • Snap off a leaf. You may not have to look any further than your windowsill. Break off a piece of your aloe vera plant and squeeze out some of the healing gel to apply to the burns.
  • Keep them out of the sun! This should go without saying, but if you pet is sunburned, you may need to not only keep them indoors for a while, but you also might have to close the drapes or blinds. Your pet won’t know to stay out of the sun that is streaming through the window, so don’t even give him the opportunity to stretch out for a nap in it.

Of course, the best thing is to help your pet avoid sunburn altogether. There are several ways to do that:

  • Slather her up. Just like your kids, your pet needs some SPF if she’s going to be spending some time out in the sun. Apply to the obviously vulnerable areas with a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15. Veterinary dermatologist, Lowell Ackerman, D.V.M., Ph.D. suggests feeding your pet immediately after applying the sunscreen to keep her from licking. It will most likely dry before she’s done eating. Ask your local pet store for a pet safe sunscreen or use one without PABA or zinc oxide. You don’t want your pet swallowing that stuff!
  • Grab a T. Will your pet look silly in a t-shirt? Most assuredly. But if he’s going to be out in the sun for a long summer’s nap, slip one on anyway. Infant and toddler shirts work well for cats and smaller breeds of dogs.
  • Shop the fashion department of your local pet store. Wide-brimmed hats and muzzles designed to protect your dog’s delicate snout are available at most pet stores. That solves one problem. Getting your pooch to don the attire is another thing altogether!
  • Common sense, anyone? Love your pets? Keep them out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the prime hours for getting a sunburn.
  • A little bit shady. This should go without saying, but make sure there’s plenty of shade available wherever your pet spends his days.

Watch for more summertime pet safety tips in the weeks to come.

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