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Solar Dermatitis

What is solar dermatitis?
The term “solar dermatitis” refers to the damaging effects of the sun on the skin of cats and dogs. The effects of ultraviolet light on the skin of pets are usually cumulative and may not be seen until after prolonged sun exposure. Although animals can experience sunburn, which causes a reddening of the skin similar to what is seen in humans, we more commonly see the more chronic effects of long-term sun exposure.

The sun-induced changes include hair loss, skin thickening and reddening, rough patches of skin, and the appearance of “blackheads”. Infections with bacteria can develop in these areas. The damage is most commonly seen in white cats and in light colored, short-coated dogs such as Dalmatians, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs, and Great Danes. In cats, the damage is usually seen on the ears and face. In dogs, the underside of the abdomen, the inner thighs, and the bridge of the nose may be most severely affected. Pets who spend time “sunbathing” outdoors or in front of open windows are at increased risk of developing solar dermatitis.

How is solar dermatitis treated?
The best treatment for solar dermatitis is to prevent further sun damage. The existing changes in the skin may only be partially reversible. Sunscreens can be applied to the skin to prevent damage when the pet allowed outside. Waterproof products with an SPF factor of 15 or higher are recommended, and should be applied at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Zinc oxide-containing products should not be used. Dogs can wear T-shirts to further minimize sun exposure. Keeping the pet indoors and away from open windows between 10 AM and 4 PM is also helpful. Preventing continued sun exposure can help reverse some of the abnormalities in the skin.

In some animals, antibiotics are needed to treat the infections that sometimes occur in sun-damaged skin. If the sun damage is severe, we may recommend other medications to prevent or reverse some of the changes.

What are the complications of solar dermatitis?
Sun-damaged skin is more prone to developing several types of skin tumors, which may need to be removed. Sun avoidance is most important in preventing the progression of the solar dermatitis to tumors. A biopsy of any tumor arising in sun-damaged skin is recommended.

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.peteducation.com