Reminder: Your Pets Can Get Skin Cancer, Too

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As the weather gets warmer we are bombarded (and rightly so) with reminders to protect ourselves from the sun – but what about our pets?

“Skin cancer can be a problem with some pets and being prepared early is key to preventing your pet from being a victim,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says.

“We need to consider our pets skin in the same consideration as we do our own.”

Crighton says in 2016 there were around 1,500 claims Australia-wide for skin cancer in dogs. Cats also suffer the effects of skin cancer, but according to the stats – not as much as dogs. And this is just the pets that were insured – the real figures are expected to be much higher than this.

Dr Ken Wyatt is Veterinary Oncologist from Perth Veterinary Oncology in Western Australia, and points out that sunlight-induced skin cancer is also far more common in dogs and cats with pale skin – as it is in people.

“White cats are at very high risk for carcinoma of the face. Bull terriers commonly develop carcinoma on the belly, as much because they seem to enjoy sunbaking on their back as having pale skin.”

So what can you do? Here are some tips from the experts:

  • Keep pets with pale skin inside during the heat of the day
  • Ensure your dog has ample shady areas
  • Consider using specially designed pet sunscreens
  • Use a pet sun-suit
  • UV protect windows for indoor cats
  • Ensure cat runs are completely in the shade

“Only sunlight induced skin cancers can be prevented,” Dr Wyatt says. “If you have a pet with pale skin then for dogs, have them indoors during the day or get them a sunsuit to wear.”

Dr Wyatt says there are several manufacturers of sunsuits – and so long as your dog isn’t going to eat the suit, it will do the job very well.

In theory sunscreen will work – though it has to be applied regularly and most are not designed to be safe when licked off. There have been dogs with zinc poisoning from sunscreen.

It is good to note that dogs and cats who are quickly treated can be readily cured of skin cancer – so if you see any suspect lumps or persistent sores see your vet.