Can Animals Get a Sunburn?
Yes, it’s completely possible for animals to receive a sunburn! Since sunburns are caused by ultraviolet rays (usually directly from the sun), if your pet or animal is an outdoor pet, they can also get sunburned! A sunburn is basically the damaging and death of skin cells on the outermost layers of skin. Depending on how sever the sunburn is, blisters and peeling of the skin may eventually occur. In a way, the peeling and blister process is your body protecting itself from the affected cells multiplying, which would pass on damaged DNA to other parts of your body. It’s possible that these damaged cells could be located in deeper skin layers, which could eventually lead to certain types of skin cancer years down the road. Some skin cancers have the potential to be very harmful and even deadly.
An animal’s fur or coat is their natural way of protecting their body against the sun, similar to how clothing and shade protects us humans. Certain types of animals that have little to no hair, such as a pig, are more likely to be at risk for a sunburn than other animals. These animals will have certain behaviors that allow them to protect themselves against the sun, like covering their bodies in mud. The mud forms a protective layer for the pig against the sun. The mud pretty much acts as sunscreen for the pigs. Rhinoceroses use this same mud covering strategy, and other animals like elephants will cover themselves in dust.
Which Animals Are At Risk?
Generally though, mammals are the most likely of all animal groups to receive a sunburn. Similar to humans, it depends on the animal’s habitat, pigmentation of the skin, and amount of hair the animal has.
Animals that are regularly trimmed or clipped of their fur like sheep are also more prone to sunburn. Sometimes the sunburn problem is made worse due to certain things the animal may be exposed to. These could include medications like antibiotics, substances in their food supply, and the spores from certain molds. These things mentioned have the potential to photo-sensitize the animals, leaving them much more vulnerable to being sunburned. These sometimes results in large open skin wounds or extreme full body sunburns. In most cases, farm animals are more likely to be sunburned than any other type of animals.
Preventing Animal Sunburns
Regular sunscreens are effective on at risk animals, along with chemical sunscreens that contain PABA (paraaminobenzoic acid). PABA works by absorbing UV-B, which overall reduces the amount of harmful UV rays that reach the animals skin cells. If an animal already has a sunburn, certain lotions that contain aloe vera extracts can be used to provide relief and are used to help with discomfort. Remember though, it’s always best for your pet or animal to never receive a sunburn in the first place! You should always have enough shade around the animal’s location so they can get out of the suns harmful rays if they feel like it. It’s also a good idea to have enough water available for your animal so they stay hydrated.