Feline solar dermatitis can occur in any skin area that has received excessive sun exposure. The ear edges are the most commonly affected sites, but any area with thin hair can be damaged, such the area in front of the ears, the eyelids, nose, and lips. White cats and cats that have patches of white fur and light-colored skin are most susceptible to feline solar dermatitis. If sun exposure is allowed to continue once skin chages are seen, many cases of Feline Solar Dermatitis transform into skin cancer, most often squamous cell carcinoma.
Inflammation and irritation follow excessive skin exposure to the sun. The first change you might notice is a slight reddening of the affected area. Changes like this have been seen in kittens as young as 3 months of age. The reddening (sunburn) does not seem to cause significant pain, but it is often followed by hair loss, making it even more susceptible to future sun damage. With repeated sun exposure the reddening becomes more pronounced, skin flaking and peeling occur, and crusts (scabs) may form. If the ear margins are the sites of the most damage, they will eventually begin to curl as well as to develop more scabs and bleeding. At this stage the ears seem to be painful and itchy. Crusted feline solar dermatitis affecting the nose and ears is often mistaken for fight wounds despite the fact that the scabs never resolve, but only become worse without treatment. If your cat has light coloring, it is very important to prevent damage to his skin. Keep the cat indoors between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun radiation is most damaging. Discourage sunbathing in windows as well, since the damaging rays are not blocked by regular plate glass.