Sunburn in Cats

Sunburn in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Sunburn in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Sunburn?

Cats love to stretch out and take a long snooze in a warm, sunny spot — and with good reason. As cats sleep, their body temperature falls, so sunlight allows them to get warm again.

Unfortunately, excess sunlight can be too much of a good thing, especially if the cat’s hair is white or otherwise light-colored, or if the cat is hairless. Sunburn in cats is damage to the skin caused by the sun’s rays.

A cat is most vulnerable to sunburn in body parts that aren’t well covered with hair: their ears, noses, and any areas covered with white hair. Cats with thinner hair are also vulnerable.

Cats who have developed sunburn will have several recognizable symptoms. Keep reading to find out what those symptoms are and how to treat sunburn in cats.

Sunburn Average Cost

From 385 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Sunburn in Cats

Just like us humans, a cat will show symptoms of sunburn after their skin has had too much sun. These symptoms include:

  • Redness of the skin in exposed areas (ears, nose, eyelids, belly)
  • Pain in burned areas
  • Itching and scratching (which can lead to skin ulcers and infection)
  • Scaly areas of the skin
  • Thickened skin where the burn developed. The skin will look like dry leather
  • Hair loss along the edges of the cat’s ears
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Sunburn in Cats

Cats can easily develop sunburn if they spend too much time in their favorite sunny spots. Some of the causes include:

  • Too much time in sunlight, even indoors
  • A thin or sparse coat of hair
  • Bare spots on the body
  • Hairless-breed cats are the most vulnerable to sunburn even though they need to stay warm
  • Lying in a sunny spot when the sun’s UV rays are the most intense (between 10am and 4pm)
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Sunburn in Cats

The vet will give your cat a full physical exam. As they do so, they will make note of all symptoms that indicate injury to the skin, such as redness, itchiness and scaly spots.

Not only does the vet look for the above symptoms, they also grade sunburns, dividing them into superficial partial thickness burns, deep partial thickness burns, and full thickness burns. The last two grades are the most serious forms of sunburn, which will require the cat to be admitted to the animal hospital for treatment which is much more involved than the care a pet parent can provide at home.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Sunburn in Cats

Sunburn treatment depends on the severity of the burn the cat has suffered. These include topical or oral steroids to relieve the skin inflammation, and antibiotics if the burnt and scratched-up areas have become infected.

The vet may shave the burned area and clean it with gentle cleansers. They will then apply a burn cream to the area. Some of this care will be prescribed for at-home treatment after diagnosis.

If the cat has suffered a full thickness burn, the vet treats the cat in the hospital with IV fluids, daily cleanings of the burned areas, bandage changes and, if the burn is very severe, skin grafts. The last treatment becomes necessary if over 15% of the cat’s body was exposed to sunburn.

At home, pet parents should limit their cat’s exposure to sunlight when the rays are most intense. Allow the cat to sun before 10am and after 4pm. Pull blinds or curtains shut between those times, especially if the cat’s hair is white or light-colored.

Sunscreens formulated especially for cats can also be applied to the cat’s ears, nose, and near-hairless areas. Sunscreens should not be of the human variety because those products contain ingredients toxic to the cat’s liver. Cats are frequent groomers, meaning the sunscreen can get into their body several times a day.

A gentle misting with cool water may help relieve the pain of a sunburn, although this may require 2 people to accomplish. A more severe burn may be relieved with a cold compress, held on the burned area for up to 5 minutes at a time.

Ask the vet about any cat-safe sunblocks that can be applied to the hairless areas of the cat’s body. Do not use any products with homosalate, octyl salicylate or ethylhexyl salicylate. Products with titanium dioxide can be considered for the tips of ears and noses, but check first with the vet. If a sunblock is approved, ask for one safe for cats.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Worried about the cost of Sunburn treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Sunburn in Cats

Once the cat has recovered from sunburn, they can return to a normal, full life. However, they should not be allowed to sun for long periods of time as repeated sunburns can lead to squamous cell carcinoma, or skin cancer.

Inside the cat’s environment, pull shades down when the sun is especially intense. Pet parents should also consider adding a reflective film to windows that allow in the most sunlight. These help diffuse the sun’s rays to a degree.

During hot summer months, pet parents should not give their cats full-body shaves. The fur protects their skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Sunburn can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your cat is at risk of sunburn, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

arrow-up-icon

Top

Sunburn Average Cost

From 385 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$500

arrow-up-icon

Top

Sunburn Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

Felix

dog-breed-icon

european

dog-age-icon

10 Years

thumbs-up-icon

4 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

4 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Ear Inflamation, Black Spots

my 10-year orange-white old cat has very light-coloured ears. I was in the country for 2 months and he used to stay in the sun for sometime. I tried to keep a reasonable schedule but it is not easy. I use do protect his ears with a paste of clay (sun-exposed) and water. Recently I realized that his ears are quite red and hot and with one bleck spot on each side. I have been cleaning the inflamed skin with mineral water and applied a light cover of clay.

Sept. 9, 2018

Felix's Owner

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Bobby

dog-breed-icon

Van

dog-age-icon

10 Years

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Dark Marks On Nose

My white cat Bobby had his ear amputated earlier this year as he had cancer. Recently we have noticed a dark flat mark appear on his nose. There has been a small mark there for the last 2 years, but recently it has gotten bigger. With him already having had cancer this year, I am worried he now has it in his nose. He is 10 years old and isn't showing any other symptoms except for the marks at this point.

Sept. 3, 2018

Bobby's Owner

Was this experience helpful?

Sunburn Average Cost

From 385 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$500

Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.