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Awnings protect both people and pets.

We live in the South, and that means lots of scorching sunshine during the summer months. Love it or hate it, all that sunshine comes with health risks for both you and your pets.

I am going to go out on a limb here and presume that all of you dislike sunburn as much as I do. In fact, my family calls me the “sunscreen queen” because of my love for SPF 50. I am constantly urging my family to put on sunscreen because a sunburn hurts and can lead to other, more nasty problems in the future, problems like skin cancer.

What may come as a surprise is that your pets can get sunburned too. Dogs and cats are susceptible to sunburn, especially white-coated animals. However, all animals that like to sunbathe on their backs are at risk as they are exposing their less protected tummies to the hot sun. An animal’s stomach as well as the tips of their ears and noses are the most common places to see sunburn on pets.

Just like with humans, skin cancer is also a concern for pets. Both cats and dogs can develop skin cancer, including melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Oh, did I forget to mention heatstroke? Pets can suffer from this condition too and it can be dangerous, even deadly.

So, what can you do to protect both the people and the pets that you love?

Provide Shade Protection

The number one recommendation from veterinarians, animal health care specialists, and doctors, is to get out of the sun or seek shade, especially during the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm. The shade protection should be adequate for you and/or your pet to be fully covered when you are under it. Awnings are a cost-effective and efficient way to provide shade coverage. Awnings provide UV protection from the rays of the sun and it can feel up to 15 degrees cooler under the shade of an awning. Quality awning fabrics can offer such significant ultraviolet protection that some, such as Sunbrella awning fabrics, have been given the Seal of Recommendation by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Blocking those burning rays and providing a cooler rest area can prevent sunburn, skin damage, and heatstroke for both humans and animals. Plus, awnings simply provide more comfort and allow you and your fur babies to enjoy the outdoors for longer.

Residential Retractable Awning - Greenville Awning Company in Greenville, SC

Use Sunscreen

No surprise here, doctors have been recommending the use of sunscreen for sunburn prevention for years. When you are shopping for your sunscreen you should look for a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. These “broad spectrum” sunscreens protect against both sunburn and skin cancer. The same goes for your pet’s sunscreen. However, it is very important to keep in mind that you can’t just spray your sunscreen on your pet as some sunscreens formulated for humans can make your pet very sick. For example, sunscreens that contain zinc oxide are toxic to dogs and can cause anemia. You also want to be careful of salicylates in sunscreen as they can cause redness and irritation to the skin of your pets. Look for sunscreens that are specifically made for pets or check with your veterinarian to ensure you are using a safe sunscreen. Check out this article from the ASPCA for more in-depth information. Also, keep in mind that the most effective way to protect your pets from sunburn is to limit their sun exposure. So, think shade first and sunscreen second.

Provide Plenty of Liquids

If you leave your pets, or your children for that matter, outside during the summer, in addition to adequate shade, you need to make sure you provide plenty of water. Staying hydrated is vital for staying safe when outdoors in the summer. You and your pets should drink plenty of water regardless of how active you are. This one simple measure can help prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke. One of our local animal hospitals has some useful information regarding the signs of heatstroke in pets and what to do about it. Shade and water are a must!

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