Why You Should be Applying Sunscreen to your Pet | The Social

Dr. Greenstein on The Social


Originally seen on The Social: Dr. Greenstein discusses everything pets on her return visit to The Social.

For animal lovers, pets are important members of the family, and losing one can be extremely difficult. That’s why we asked Chief Emergency Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Greenstein to share tips on how to help our furry friends live longer.


Avoid human diets in pet food


A lot of people who follow human food fads, like the raw food diet or gluten-free diet, put their pets on them, too. But is this beneficial?

Celiac disease, or an intolerance of gluten, is rare in pets so there isn’t a strong medical foundation for feeding them these diets.

Dr. Greenstein is also wary of the raw food diet, given the huge salmonella and E. coli risk, not to mention the additional problem of raw diets that contain bones.

The vast majority of commercial dog foods, and vet-prescribed foods are certified to meet certain nutritional requirements in terms of their percentage of protein, fat, carbs, nutrients, and minerals.


Be careful with table scraps


Meat-based supplementing has to be bland, not fried, with little-to-no fat or seasoning, and make sure you’re not sharing table foods that contain toxic ingredients like onions or garlic.

New proteins in the diet can also be an allergic trigger. If you notice your dog is having tummy upset or has a new rash or itchy skin after introducing a new kind of meat to the mix, it may be best to skip it.


Talk to your vet before feeding your pet peanut butter and other high fat treats


Nut allergies aren’t very common in dogs so that’s not a concern. What’s problematic is the fat content of foods like peanut butter. Dogs can’t metabolize fats as easily as we do and that can lead to anything from simple tummy upset to more serious conditions like inflammation of the pancreas (‘pancreatitis’).

If your dog has a known sensitive stomach, has had pancreatitis in the past, or is a breed at risk of pancreatitis (like schnauzers), you may want to talk to your vet before indulging them in higher fat treats.


Offer a variety of foods if your pet is picky


This is common with a lot of cat owners. The question is whether your pet is a lifelong finicky eater or if this is something new or worsening.

If you suspect your cat just isn’t crazy about his or her food, offer a variety of nutritionally balanced foods and see if there’s one they seem to like more. If you’re switching diets, always remember to do it gradually to limit the chance of tummy upset.

If it’s a new or worsening condition, there may be an underlying medical reason that needs to be investigated so make sure you take your pet to see a vet.


Exercise with caution


Everyone knows the importance of exercise to combat obesity, improve cardiovascular health, combat boredom, and provide mental stimulation and socialization—but not all exercise is created equal.

Super-long walks or strenuous exercise can be hard on their joints and can lead to painful chronic arthritis or other injuries, particularly for large dogs weighing over 50 lbs., or those with underlying joint conditions like hip dysplasia.
Running on hard surfaces like asphalt or playing fetch with sudden stops and starts are also more traumatic on the joints so consider switching to a softer surface like grass to improve shock absorption.

Swimming or walking on a semi-underwater treadmill are fantastic ways to exercise dogs because they are low impact and easier on the joints.


Examine “outdoor” pets often


If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, try to examine them often when they’re inside to check them for any wounds or limping. This will get a baseline to tell if something happened to them while they were outdoors.

Make note of when they left the home and try not to have them out of your sight for long periods of time – definitely not overnight. If you can confine them to your fenced yard, that’s way safer than wandering the neighbourhood and it keeps them away from cars.

Outdoor cats should be fully vaccinated and completely up-to-date on deworming and parasite control. It’s essential.

Lastly, a lot of owners of outdoor cats can be delayed in picking up on important signs like weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea, because they don’t go out of their way to observe them.


Prioritize dental health


Dental health is way more important than most pet owners realize. Close to 90 percent of dogs and cats over the age of three have some sort of dental disease.

Severe dental disease can actually lead to issues with the kidneys or the heart so regular check-ups and preventative dental cleanings at your vet are the best defense against dental disease.


Apply a vet-approved sunscreen to your dog


Dogs, like people, can definitely get a variety of skin cancers and each kind arises and behaves a little differently. Fair-skinned and sparsely-haired dogs are, not surprisingly, susceptible to sunburns from UV exposure. Their thinly-haired bellies, armpits, eyelids, and noses are a prime target for burns, which can be painful and totally preventable.

For some forms of skin cancer, UV radiation is a risk factor so keep them in the shade or apply a vet-approved sunscreen to help reduce their sunburn and skin cancer risk.


Occasional grooming is a good idea


Some cats are meticulous groomers, but with age, weight gain or illness, many cats won’t keep up on grooming themselves. This can lead to matted fur or soiling around their bum. In the summer, we get a lot of cases of sick or overweight outdoor cats coming in with maggot infestations. This is because flies love to go after moist, matted, and soiled areas and lay their eggs. It’s beyond gross and so painful for the animal.

Even occasional grooming is a good idea, especially for the furry guys in warm weather. Not only is brushing your cat a good bonding exercise, it reduces matts, helps even out their dense undercoat, can make their coats shinier, and it gives you a great opportunity to look for skin problems, undetected weight loss, or lumps or bumps that you would have otherwise completely missed.

With that said, be careful about over grooming. Just like that one friend who showers twice a day and ends up with super dry and flaky hair, dogs and cats aren’t really that different. Dogs especially have natural oils on their skin that are sort of a natural moisturizer and conditioner. Over-grooming can strip away those oils and create dry, flaky skin and a dull coat. For some pets with sensitive skin or allergies, frequent trips to the groomer can cause these underlying skin allergies to flare up.