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Skin Cancer Awareness For Cats And Dogs

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Much like humans pets can suffer from skin cancer and sun damage. Ensure that your best friend is protected by becoming more sun aware for your cat or dog.

What types of cats and dogs are at risk of skin cancer?

Any cat or dog can suffer from skin cancer. It can be found in all breeds, colours of coats and in both indoor and outdoor animals, so you should take precautions no matter what kind of cat or dog you have. However, you should also pay special attention if your animal falls into one of the high risk categories, these include:

  • Animals with white fur. These pets normally have white fur and sensitive pink skin which can increase their risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
  • Animals with thin or no hair. Fur can be a good source of sun protection and any animals with sparse or thin hair can be at higher risk of exposure.
  • Animals that live in high UV radiation areas. High UV radiation centres such as alpine regions or many parts of Australia can cause additional risk to your pets.

What are the signs of skin damage I should look for?

Like humans, cats and dogs can suffer from skin damage and skin cancer when repeatedly overexposed to the sun. Owners should regularly check their coats for any new bumps, lumps or spots that may be signs of skin cancer. Abnormal growths often have irregular edges, discoloration and can present as open sores, which should be noted and referred to a veterinarian.
Special attention should be paid to sensitive and exposed parts of the skin. In cats and dogs these are the mouth, nose, tips of the ears, toenail beds and sometimes the belly.
When your pets have been exposed to prolonged time in the sun you should also be on the lookout for signs of sunburn. These might be heat exhaustion, continuous panting, sore and painful skin. If the symptoms present as severe they may need urgent medical attention as serious sunburns can be fatal.

How do I keep my pet safe?

The good news is that much like with our own skin, there are plenty of options for keeping your pet safe. Keep in mind that not all animals will accept some of the sun protection techniques that are listed below and that you should never force your pet to wear something that distresses them. Some of the best strategies include:

  • Apply pet safe sun screen. There are sunscreens designed specifically for cats and dogs that you should apply regularly to sensitive areas of exposed skin such as the tips of the ears and the nose. For cats avoid for any sunscreen with PABA, zinc oxide, octisalate or salicytes. Talk to your vet if you are unsure which sunscreen you should be using for your animal.
  • Provide them with protective clothing. Protective clothing such as hats and coats can be a great way of protecting your pet from the sun and can be seriously cute too!
  • Provide your pets with shade. Awnings or trees in the back yard are a must if you allow your animal outdoors to allow them to seek shade when they need it.
  • Restrict time outside during peak UV exposure. Try to restrict time outside during peak UV hours which are normally between 10am and 2pm.

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