Sunburn: First Aid

December 31, 1994 (published) | July 10, 2018 (revised)

Sunburn is damage to the tissues caused by exposure to the sun's rays and ultraviolet radiation.

Animals are usually covered by hair, fur, or pigmented skin that protects them from the harmful rays of the sun. Any circumstance that removes this natural protection may allow the pet to receive enough ultraviolet radiation to burn.

If your pet has a shaved or non-pigmented area, you may apply a sunscreen that contains PABA as the active ingredient. Some sunscreens contain other drugs (such as zinc) that may be harmful if ingested.

What to Do

  • Prevention is much better than treatment. Keep your pets out of direct sunlight. 
  • If your pet must be in the sun, apply sunscreen containing PABA  as you would for yourself, and prevent your pet from licking it off. 
  • If your pet has burned, apply liberal quantities of an aloe vera preparation and seek veterinary attention.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not apply any other form of medication without first discussing it with your veterinarian.
  • Do not give any over-the-counter or prescription medications to your pet unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.

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