Monday, July 12, 2010

Sun and Skin Safety for Pets

This fine kitty was my former pet Chessie. She lived sixteen years, and was quite the social butterfly, greeting people and watching them eat dinner through dining room windows. The little spy! Unfortunately, going outside and sun bathing ultimately ended her life. She contacted melanoma, and eventually had to be put to sleep. It was a sad day for everyone.

Since then, I have become much better educated about the negative effect of sun on pets' sensitive skin. Skin cancers are the most common tumor among dogs and the second most common in cats. Though skin tumors are not as prevalent in cats, they are more likely to be malignant. It's most frequently found in middle-aged or elderly pets, and animals with thin light color fur. There is no particular breed of cat prone to skin cancer, but white cats can easily develop this disease. Among dogs, Dalmations, Bull Terriers, Pointers and hairless breeds are all at risk of developing skin cancer. Also, pets with a "summer trim" are in danger of sun damage. I've seen many Bichons with close cuts in need of sun protection. The body areas most in jeopardy are the belly, bridge of nose, ear tips and around the pet's lips. Chessie's cancer started on her belly. 


So what can we do to protect our pets from skin cancer? 

1. Keep your pet indoors during the peak sun hours of 10 am - 2 pm.
2. Take walks at dusk or dawn. 
3. Apply sunscreen at least twice a day on both dogs and cats. The sunscreen should be 15 SPF or higher. If you don't mind a colorful pet, tinted sunscreens will show where screen needs reapplying.
4. When at the beach, keep your dog under an umbrella.
5. Purchase dog sun clothing with UV protection. 

If interested in sunscreen, organic lotions designed for human babies can be used on dogs. Just remember dogs will try to lick the lotion off. Aerosol sunscreen for dogs can also be acquired at pet stores and through Amazon.

How can you tell if your pet has skin cancer?

1. Finding a lump on the skin may be cancer.
2. A sore that doesn't heal.
3. An area with strangely crusty or scaly skin may be suspect.
4. Any spot that changes color or has irregular borders could be cancerous.

Take your pet to the veterinarian if you think he or she may have skin cancer.

If  your pet gets a sunburn regardless of great diligence, applying Aloe Vera, Witch Hazel or vitamin E can help reduce the sting. 

With the correct care, an excellent summer can be had by all.

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