Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Medical Issues: Sunburn

Mondays this April are dedicated to a miniseries on medical issues. We missed Pet Poison Prevention Week (March 18 -24), so today's post is our belated submission.

As many of us know, pets can get sunburns too. Light colored and hairless breeds may be more susceptible, but any pink nose or eartip is susceptible to the sun's rays. I was surprised to learn that commercial sunscreens are toxic to cats!

 The active ingredient in sunscreen - the thing that chemically blocks harmful UV rays - is Octyl Salicylate (or variants of it such as Homosalate and Ethylhexyl Salicylate). When ingested, it breaks down into salycilic acid, also known as aspirin.

 Aspirin is very toxic to a cat. Even one extra-strength aspirin can have fatal consequences!

That's because cats can't metabolize them. And the reason why they can't is because the are obligate carnivores, or "hypercarnivores," meaning that at least 70% of their diet comes from meat. So what's a sun-loving kitty to do if he wants to catch some outdoor time on the deck?

 There are some products on the market that are marketed as "physical" sunblocks (as opposed to the chemical ones we mentioned above). These contain Titanium Dioxide which physically coat a surface and block out most of the sun's rays. There is probably not much risk in using a product with Titanium Dioxide as the main ingredient because not that much is going to be absorbed through the skin, and it's inert if ingested.

But... be sure to read the label carefully because sunscreens with Titanium Dioxide are often paired with substances that are toxic to cats, such as PABA and Propylene Glycol and Zinc Oxide. PABA is only mildly toxic and will most likely only cause stomach irritation.

But Propylene Glycol is the additive in the "safer" anti-freeze and can cause liver or kidney dysfunction if ingested. There are a surprising number of sunscreens marketed for pets that contain these ingredients, so please be cautious when buying! Often it's safer to look toward baby products than pet products in cases like this.

Or you could always make up your own. Here's a recipe posted by Teri T, the blogger at Curlz & Swirlz:

Recipe for cat safe sunscreen lotion:
6 tbsp. almond oil or (3 tbsp. avocado oil and 3 tbsp. almond oil)
3 tbsp shea butter or (1 tbsp. shea butter and 2 tbsp. cocoa butter)
1 tsp. beeswax
1 tsp. soya-lecithin
2 tbsp. aloevera gel
2 tbsp. rose water
3-5 drops coconut oil (optional, for fragrance)

Melt the oils, butters and beeswax in a double boiler over low heat only until melted. Add the soya-lecithin, then stir till mixed. Remove from heat. Warm the aloe-vera gel and rose water.

While still warm, put water mix over ice, then drizzle in the oil mixture while stirring rapidly with a small whisk. It should creme quickly. Add coconut fragrance oil if desired.

Mix well. Store in a clean, airtight jar.

Here's to many safe and sunny summer snoozes!

(P.S. Did you know some skim milks contain Titanium Dioxide? They do it to make the milk look more 'milky white". I think I'm sticking with 2 percent. Ick! source: Journal of Dairy Science Vol. 80, No. 11, 199 )


  1. Mom hasn't found sunscreen yet but saw your note about your friend and will check her store out. Thanks for asking about it for us!

    1. We don't think it's in her store. It was something she made up on the side that she still has around and could give you. Probably message her on FB if you were interested!

    2. We touched base and she said she would give some to you to get to me for CJ. I have a crazy week this week and wasn't sure if I could drop in to her studio. Hope it's okay with you to play courier! Thanks!

  2. Wud have never thot about us kitteh's gettin sunburnt! Makes purrrfect sence nose, pink paw pads, even poor CJ's tender parts! Thx fur dis valuable info...
    Luv, Leo

  3. Great post, very helpful and informative! Our Bailey does not go outside, but has "sun spots" inside her ears - most likely because she prefers to lay in the sun, but inside the home!

    1. we were surprised the vet told her to put sunscreen on even inside! Turns out that glass doesn't block all UV rays....


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