Some dogs and cats prone to sunburn: How to protect your animal from skin damage

Humans are not the only ones who need to monitor their exposure to UV rays: animals are at risk too. Dogs and cats with white or thin coats are at particular risk, as are animals with very closely shorn fur or with certain pre-existing conditions. Dermatologist Christa Horvath-Ungerböck from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna explains which animals are particularly sensitive, how to prevent sun damage to the skin, and how to treat a sunburned animal.

Human or animals skin with little or no pigmentation is very sensitive to the sun in general. Hairless pets or pets with very short or thin fur can also be vulnerable. For dogs and cats this applies in particular to those parts of the skin that are regularly exposed to the sun. These include the ears, the bridge of the nose, the skin around the eyes, and the back. “Some animals particularly enjoy lying on their backs to bask in the sun. This exposes the skin on their bellies, which is often hairless, to the rays of the sun, increasing the risk of sunburn,” reports veterinary dermatologist Christa Horvath-Ungerböck.

A nose with little hair and underlying light skin are at higher sunburn risk. Photo Credit: Vetmeduni Vienna

Particularly vulnerable pets

House pets with white or short fur are at particular risk of sunburn. The Dogo Argentino breed, white bulldogs, Dalmatians, boxers, whippets, beagles and white or multi-coloured cats with white patches have skin that is very sensitive to light, especially on their heads. In summer animals with shorn fur can also have a problem. The short hair allows UV rays penetrate down to the sensitive skin and cause sunburn.

Hairless dogs and cats are naturally more sensitive to the sun, since they lack the natural sun protection fur affords. Here too though, skin pigmentation plays a role, and darker animals are less vulnerable to UV rays. Owners of vulnerable breeds should take particular care to protect their animals from the sun.

Sun protection for animals

“As a rule, animals should have a shady place to lie in. Especially at midday, when the sun is at its strongest and presents the greatest risk, not just for the skin but for the animal overall”, explains dermatologist Horvath-Ungerböck. Particularly sensitive animals require sun protection in the form of a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or a sunblock containing zinc oxide, for example.

For longer hikes through the mountains where the sun’s rays are particularly aggressive, sensitive animals should wear a t-shirt, coat or hat for protection.

The skin specialist advises owners not to worry: “Not every white dog or white cat needs sunscreen or clothing to protect it from the sun. If sun damage has already occurred though, or if an animal is highly sensitive, it is up to us to protect it from further damage.”

A custom-made umbrella can also be a suitable sunscreen for sensitive skin. Photo Credit: Vetmeduni Vienna

Treating sunburn in animals

If sunburn is visible as reddened, warm or flaking skin, the animal should be moved to the shade as quickly as possible. Cool compresses and ointments to soothe the skin can help relieve the initial symptoms. If the burn is severe, a veterinarian should be consulted as treatment with a cortisone product may be indicated to prevent inflammation. If the skin changes present as a secondary infection, antibiotics may be indicated. The affected animal will need to be well protected from the sun in future to prevent permanent damage.

Certain pre-existing conditions can increase skin sensitivity

Some illnesses and genetic defects that result in a thin coat can make the skin more sensitive to sunburn. Any longer-term stimulus that results in a loss of fur is a possible factor. These can include parasitic infections, chronic skin conditions, or congenital hairlessness.  In some cases, exposure to the sun can worsen an existing condition. Animals with autoimmune skin diseases must be carefully protected from the sun, for example. And areas of the skin that were covered by fur but are suddenly exposed due to hair loss, such as scar tissue after an operation or injury, should be carefully observed and shielded as needed.

Damage caused by sun exposure

In animals, sunburn results in an acute inflammation of the skin that can cause itching or even pain, depending on the individual animal. Frequent sunburns can lead to pre-cancerous conditions or even actual skin tumours. “We sometimes see squamous cell carcinoma on the heads of white, outdoor cats as the result of chronic sun exposure. The affected areas of the skin then need to be surgically removed,” Horvath-Ungerböck explains.

 (Via: ScienceDaily)

Five Common Dental Problems in Dogs

Did you know that dogs have dental problems just like humans? In general, most occur as a result of a build up of calculus or tartar. For this reason, it is just as important to brush your dog’s teeth as it is your own.

So, what are the most common dental problems for dogs?

They are the five below:

1- Bad Breath

If your dog has really bad breath, it is a sign of a dental problem. He either has a brewing infection or an excess of bacteria on his tongue. You can resolve this issue by taking him to the vet for a dental check up along with scraping his tongue and brushing his teeth. By doing all of these things, you will see that your dog’s breath will drastically improve.

2- Loose Teeth

Loose teeth usually occur in older dogs and can be linked to many things. Either poor dental hygiene and/or genetics are the cause of the teeth loosening up. This dental problem is a challenge because it is usually difficult to reverse. If poor hygiene is the culprit, your vet can clean your dog’s teeth and remove any tartar or calculus on them. However, if genetics is playing a role, there’s not much you can do.

3- Slab Fracture

A slab fracture is the breaking of the enamel layer on a tooth. This kind of fracture usually occurs on the fourth molar in a dog’s mouth and can be linked to the chewing of bones. Yes, a dog who likes to gnaw on a bone can actually damage his teeth. For this kind of dental problem, you needs to seek the assistance from a vet. He will determine what is the best route is to repair the problem. Also, you will want to give your dog another “softer” alternative to the bone he is chewing on.

4- Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth occurs when a cavity is not taken care of and the tooth becomes infected. A sign that your dog is suffering from an abscessed tooth is that he is sensitive to touch (around the mouth) and won’t eat certain hard foods anymore. Naturally, you can’t take care of this kind of dental problem on your own. You need to take your dog to a licensed vet who will either repair or extract the tooth.

5- Tennis-ball Mouth

Does your dog like to chew on a tennis ball for several hours each day? If so, he’s ruining his teeth. The abrasive exterior of a tennis ball wears away the outer enamel on the teeth. Although this won’t necessarily cause him pain, it will affect his ability to chew. What’s the solution? Give your dog a new, softer item to chew on and throw the tennis ball away.

Logan’s Trip To The Doggie Dentist

Check yourself, before you wreck yourself: A guide to Canine Dental Health

It was about 3 months ago, that Logan’s mouth started to stink.
Not just  ‘dog breath’ smell. This is an OMG STANK-smell.

It was also 3 months ago that I removed all antlers, and other bone bits.  I had been red flagged by my vet that his molars were filed down to an abnormal size based on his age (he’ll be 6 in January). Logan is a chewer, which explains his nubby molars! I do know keeping your pet’s teeth and gums in good shape has many health benefits in addition to fresh breath.

My vet clinic is performing free dental consultations, so I took Logan in last week, for a checkup consult.  Turns out, he isn’t as bad off as I had originally thought, as his gums look healthy, and only has a bit of tarter build up. It’s highly suggested he gets a scaling, to prevent it from getting worse as he gets older.  I received a quote, and will be booking his teeth cleaning within the next couple of weeks.

Logan’s mouth evaluation – October 2013

Dog Dental Q&A – Common Questions

My pet has bad breath. Are bad teeth and gums the cause?
Most likely, YES. However, it is very important to schedule a visit to the veterinarian. In rare cases, some diseases or situations can cause bad breath in the absence of, or in addition to, tooth/gum disease. Conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, nasal or facial skin infections, cancers, or situations where the animal is ingesting feces or other materials, can cause bad breath with or without periodontal disease.

What actually causes the bad breath when tooth/gum disease is present?
Bad breath, medically known as “halitosis”, results from the bacterial infection of the gums (gingiva) and supporting tissues seen with periodontal disease (periodontal = occurring around a tooth).

How can I tell if my pet is suffering from periodontal disease?

* Bad Breath: this is the leading sign that there is an infection in the mouth
* Tooth loss
* Subdued Behavior
* Abnormal Drooling
* Dropping food from the mouth
* Swallowing food whole
* Bleeding gums
* Going to the food bowl, but not eating
* Any change in chewing or eating habits

If your pet displays any of these signs, serious periodontal disease may be present.

What are the causes of periodontal disease?
Plaque is a colorless film that contains large amounts of bacteria.  If left unchecked, plaque builds up, creating infection, destroying gums and resulting in the loss of the tissues and bone that support the teeth.  Preventative oral care can reduce the formation of plaque and help maintain proper oral health throughout your pet’s life.

What is the difference between plaque and tartar?
Plaque is a colony of bacteria, mixed with saliva, blood cell, and other bacterial components. Plaque often leads to tooth and gum disease. Dental tartar, or calculus, occurs when plaque becomes mineralized (hard) and firmly adheres to the tooth enamel then erodes the gingival tissue.

What can happen if my pet’s teeth aren’t cleaned?
Both plaque and tartar damage the teeth and gums. Disease starts with the gums (gingiva). They become inflamed – red, swollen, and sore. The gums finally separate from the teeth, creating pockets where more bacteria, plaque, and tartar build up. This in turn causes more damage, and finally tooth and bone loss.

This affects the whole body, too. Bacteria from these inflamed oral areas can enter the bloodstream and affect major body organs. The liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs are most commonly affected. Antibiotics are used prior to and after a dental cleaning to prevent bacterial spread through the blood stream.

But my pet is only 3 years old! Isn’t this an “old dog/cat disease”?
No – dental disease is NOT just for the senior pets.
Without proper dental care, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three.

My pet doesn’t seem like s/he is in any pain. Do they experience oral pain?
They may not verbalize or complain like a human would, but animals most likely feel pain with periodontal disease. The pain levels may be low, or very noticeable, and it varies with each animal. Obvious signs of oral pain may include: “chattering” teeth while eating or grooming, drooling, crying out, and refusing to eat. Please see this informative article by a veterinary dental specialist, Ben H. Colmery III, DVM, “Pet Dental Care – Does it Hurt”?

My pet lost a tooth the other day. S/he seems fine. Do I need to do anything?
Yes – please see your veterinarian as soon as possible to check the pocket and other teeth. Exposed tissue can be very painful and are open to infection.

My vet has recommended a dental for my pet. What should l expect?
If your pet has a lot of periodontal disease, your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics for a few days prior to the dental. This will reduce the infection in the mouth and the spread of bacteria via the bloodstream. Pets need to be anesthetized for a full dental cleaning. Scaling tartar can be done while awake, but for a thorough oral exam and cleaning, animals must be anesthetized. Scaling tartar on an awake animal, without polishing the teeth, leaves a rough surface to the tooth, predisposing the tooth for more plaque and tartar accumulation, quicker. Most vets strongly urge pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure that everything else is OK with your pet.

Your pet will be anesthetized, any medications or fluids will be administered, and the vet or veterinary technician will scale the teeth, examine the gums (and any pockets), extract diseased teeth*, and polish the teeth. The equipment used on your pet’s teeth is much like you would find in a human dental office.

*There are other options – such as root canals, crowns, etc. Please speak with your veterinarian about these options, or seek a referral to a veterinary dental specialist.

How can I care for my pet’s teeth at home?
It is important to use products specifically designed for dogs and cats. Do not use human toothpaste on your pet’s teeth. Products are available for cats and for dogs. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician can show you the proper techniques for your pet. Some animals do well with a toothbrush, some do not. Other products include finger swabs, tooth ‘cloths’, and mouth rinses. Talk to your vet about what type of product would work best for your pet. Ideally, the teeth should be brushed daily, as with humans. Even once every few days will be a big help.