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skin cancer is dangerous

Vets issue skin cancer warning for pets

We're halfway through Sun Awareness Week (May 8th to 14th), and although we may be aware of the dangers sun exposure poses to us, not many realise the danger it also poses to our pets.

Veterinary expert Megan Jerred at Animalfriends.co.uk says sun-related illnesses in pets are on the rise. "We've seen a 20% increase in sun and heat-related conditions in dogs since 2014, including dehydration and skin cancer – which can cost owners an average of £528 in vet bills," she explained.

According to the pet insurance company, melanoma and heat stroke are two of the most common and expensive seasonal summer conditions for pets. Claims for heat stroke treatment can set owners back £900 and treating a serious cases of skin cancer can cost in excess of £2,000.

Between summer 2014 to summer 2015, veterinary charity PDSA reported that their pet hospitals treated 29 pets for skin cancer and 25 cases of sunburn - almost all of which were cats.

PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman said that most people who sought treatment for their pets were not even aware that animals can get cancer. "It often comes as a surprise to owners as some assume that fur will protect them from the sun," she said. 

"Unfortunately, this isn't an effective barrier, and white-furred pets are at highest risk because their skin lacks natural pigmentation which helps to block out the harmful UV rays."

Areas with little fur, such as the tips of the ear, are also at high risk an as the temperature climbs, owners are being advised to keep their pets indoors or in the shade. If you notice any changes to your pet's skin, seek veterinary advice immediately.  

"Keeping pets out of the sun as much as possible and ensuring they have constant access to shaded areas will help prevent skin cancer," said Rebecca.

Special sunscreen for pets is available and can be purchased online and from pet stores. If you're unable to find pet sunscreen, Megan suggests you can also use sunblock designed for human babies or children - provided it is fragrance free and above SPF 15, and does not contain zinc oxide, which can be toxic to pets.

Top tips for the summer 

  • Limit the amount of time pets spend in the sun, especially during the peak of the day
  • Use special pet sun cream on light or thin fur, the nose, ears or other exposed patches
  • Give them plenty of cool, clean water, refreshed regularly
  • Clip long-haired pets to prevent them from overheating
  • Never leave animals locked in cars, even for a few minutes
  • Avoid walking dogs between 8am and 5pm to avoid the main heat of the day
  • Consult a vet immediately if you notice ulcers, sores or sudden discolouration on your pet's skin.