Virginia, cats get sunburned, too.
by Robert Shearon
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.
White cats, cats with white ears, noses or bald cats are most susceptible
to sunburn. This is because of the lack of melanin (skin and hair pigment),
and protective hair in these areas.
The ears are most commonly affected, although eyelids and noses can also
Solar dermatitis (also known as actinic dermatitis) is a common disorder
in areas with warm, sunny climates.
What are the symptoms of solar dermatitis in cats?
Initially exposure causes mild redness, hair loss along the ear margins.
Scaling, thickening of the skin and itching occur over time. This may
cause your cat to shake his head and scratch at the affected area causing
bleeding and possibly infection. The dermatitis becomes progressively
worse each summer until persistent ulceration and squamous cell carcinoma
How is solar dermatitis treated?
If you believe your cat has been sunburned seek veterinary attention
immediately. Treatment depends on the severity of the burn. Antibiotics
may be required if infection is present. If sunburn is severe, topical
or oral steroid cream may be prescribed. If squamous cell carcinoma has
developed, surgery to remove the cancerous cells (partial pinnectomy)
and chemotherapy or radiation therapy will
Prevention is better than cure in this case and the following steps should
be taken with vulnerable cats:
• Limiting your cat's exposure to the sun by confining him/her indoors
during the hours of 10.00am - 4.00pm.
• Application of a waterproof sun block. Speak to your veterinarian about
which brands are safe to use on cats.
• Early detection is important, so your veterinarian may wish to take
a biopsy to determine if your cat has sunburn or squamous cell carcinoma.