While we humans are well aware of the dangers of spending too much time in the sun, the same is true for our pets. Although their fur provides a little protection, just like us, pets can suffer from sunburn and, in some cases, sun damage can lead to skin cancer.
PDSA vet, Olivia Anderson-Nathan, says: “Although we might be aware of the risks of the sun to ourselves, many owners are unaware that our pets face the same dangers of sunburn, heatstroke and even skin cancer.”
Worryingly, pet insurer Animal Friends has witnessed a 35.7% rise in melanoma cases in cats, dogs and horses since 2015. The most vulnerable areas are the tips of the ears, the nose and anywhere where fur is thinner, and skin is exposed. Some pets need more protection than others – in particular those with white or pale fur, thin or patchy fur and pets that have pink skin exposed on their ears, nose or belly.
Protect your pets from the harmful rays of the sun
- Limit the amount of time pets spend in the sun and avoid walking dogs in the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest.
- Make sure your pets have access to shade. Trees and shrubs make great shade for garden-loving dogs and cats. A blanket or tarpaulin draped over the corner of their run can provide welcome shade for rabbits and guinea pigs.
- If it’s hot enough for you to feel the need for sun cream, your pet will probably need protection too. Use special pet-friendly sun cream on light or thin fur, the nose, ears or other exposed patches. Never use sunscreen intended for humans as the perfumes and chemical agents it contains may irritate animal skin as well as your pet’s tongue, throat and stomach if they try to lick it off.
Warning signs to watch out for
The sun’s harmful UV rays can cause damaging changes to skin cells. Over time, these changes can lead to some pets developing a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. While it’s not a common condition, it’s essential to get treatment quickly as it can be quite an aggressive tumour.
- Keep an eye out for any changes to your pet’s skin such as wounds that don’t heal on the tips of the nose or ears.
- Pay attention to any new lumps and always get them checked out by your vet.
- If you notice ulcers, sores or sudden discolouration on your pet’s skin, consult a vet immediately.
If your vet does diagnose skin cancer, they will be able to give you lots of advice about the right kind of treatment for your pet. If your vet thinks your pet has a tumour caused by the sun, then they may advise surgery to remove the tumour. For those areas that are difficult to operate on – such as eyelids or nose – your vet may recommend more advanced treatments such as radiotherapy. Prompt action is vital. If a tumour is treated early before it has spread, then the outlook is usually good for this type of cancer.
Your vet will also be able to give you advice about how to protect your pet from the sun and stop them suffering from more skin problems.
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10 tips to keep your pets cool this summer
Summer first aid for pets