Can our pets get skin cancer?

Updated: Jun 21

With summer on the way and things heating up, like us, our pets are likely to be spending a lot more time outside. While their fur gives some protection agains the suns potentially dangerous rays they can still get sun burn and develop squamous cell carcinoma which is a type of skin cancer.

Fur can be particularly thin and sparse over the tips of the ears, nose, belly, bridge of nose and groin area particularly on white, short coated animals. They lack melanin pigment for protection, this leaves fragile skin exposed to the suns rays.


Always keep a close eye on your pets for any changes in the skin, particularly new growths and non healing scabbed areas, these tumours can be firm and wart like . Always get these checked by your vet. Early treatment is key to the best chance of cure.



Treatment

Surgery is often the best form of treatment for squamous cell carcinoma, the area is surgically removed if possible. Sometimes laser surgery is an option as is radiation therapy.



Prevention


Shade: Keeping your pets out of direct sunlight, particularly between 12-3pm when the UV rays are at their strongest.


Clothing: For animals that need to be outside there are companies that make 'rash guard' type clothing that has sun protection.


Window treatment: Windows can allow dangerous UV rays through into your home and car so if there is a spot where your pet likes to lie and get heat from the sun, sun protection film can he fitted over those particular windows.


Suncream: There are suncreams on the market designed particularly for pets, These can be very useful to apply to hairless areas for protection. Always make sure the ingredients are pet safe, some baby creams can be used but make sure they don't contain PABA, octyl salicylate or zinc oxide as these can be toxic if licked.


There are several other types of skin cancer that can affect dogs and cats- not only ones triggered by the sun, they can have different appearances and some breeds are more prone. If you find a new skin mass on your pet always get it checked by your vet.

The more common other forms of skin cancer are:

  • Malignant melanoma- Mostly often on lip, mouth, nail bed and often are ulcerated lumps

  • Mast cell tumours-Appear anywhere on body

  • Histocytic cell tumours-

  • Fibrosarcoma



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