Feline Solar Dermatitis

Feline solar dermatitis is caused due to excessive exposure to the sun. Pets that aren't treated for solar dermatitis are likely to develop skin cancer or squamous cell carcinoma. Solar dermatitis is also known as actinic dermatitis and mostly occurs in pets living in places with sunny climatic conditions.

Symptoms of Solar Dermatitis

  • Redness of the affected areas
  • Hair loss
  • Crusty skin
  • Frequent itching around the ears
  • Skin inflammation
  • Thickening of the skin around the ears

Susceptibility to Solar Dermatitis Varies by Coat

Although solar dermatitis can develop in any pet, lighter colored cats and pets with fine hair coats are more likely to develop sunburns and skin dermatitis. The ears, nose and lips are the primary areas that get affected due to the lack of excessive fur. Pet owners should notice any changes in color or texture of the skin and seek vet help in time. Cats that roam outdoors and prefer to sit in the sun are prone to solar dermatitis. After the initial redness of skin, cats begin to scratch the affected sites and cause further damage and infection.

Diagnosis of Feline Solar Dermatitis

In order to diagnose solar dermatitis, the vet will perform a physical examination and include a skin scraping test to determine the presence of any bacteria. The vet will also check if the pet is at risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer will be diagnosed by performing a biopsy. Pets have to be anesthetized in order to perform the biopsy and a small sample of skin tissue will be removed and sent for a microscopic examination. Malignant cells or tissues will then have to be treated for squamous cell carcinoma. This often involves surgery and radiation therapy.

Treatment of Feline Solar Dermatitis

Cats that suffer from initial solar dermatitis will be prescribed steroidal creams to soothe the affected areas. Bacterial infections that have developed due to excessive itching will be treated with antibiotic medication. Sunburns that progress to skin lesions or wounds also have to be disinfected and bandaged daily to reduce infection. In order to prevent squamous cell carcinoma from developing, it's also necessary to treat the sunburn and prevent further sun exposure. It's best to avoid using over the counter products before determining the underlying cause of dermatitis or skin changes. The most common type of cream used to treat sunburns is silver sulfadiazine.

Prevention of Feline Solar Dermatitis

Since pets that develop solar dermatitis are susceptible to skin cancer, it's necessary to take preventive measures to protect the pet's skin from harsh sun rays. It's best to use a sunscreen before taking the pet outdoors. Sunscreens should also be applied 15 minutes before exposing the pet to sun rays. In addition, it's better to use waterproof and hypoallergenic sunscreens with an SPF 15. The cat should also be prevented from roaming outdoors during the hours when the sun rays are strongest.

Pet owners can protect their pets from sunburns and skin cancer if they notice the symptoms in time and start prompt treatment and preventive measures.