We have all heard the message of “Slip, Slop, Slap” over the years and most of us are getting good at making sure we are well protected against the sun’s harmful rays. But did you know that this message applies to your pets too?
UV damage from the sun can cause skin damage in our pets. At risk are white animals or animals with little protective fur. Long term UV damage can cause skin cancers to develop. These cancers can cause major problems for your pet. Local non healing, painful wounds can be seen that may bleed or cause chronic irritation. Cancers can be very invasive, eroding away normal skin and they can spread throughout the body.
So what can you do for your pet?
The first step is to regularly check their skin. Pay close attention to pale areas or areas with little fur. White ears, pink noses, naked belly skin…… Look for little scabs that just don’t seem to be healing, blood blisters, new lumps or an area of sudden colour change. Your vet should check anything new or different.
We may recommend cytology – examining cells taken from the lesion, or a biopsy – sending away a sample for identifications.
Early detections will often turn up pre-cancerous lesions. These are changes that are not yet cancerous but they are heading that way. This is the BEST time to catch a problem, as there are multiple treatment options.
Some lesions can be treated with cryosurgery. By freezing the spot we can kill all the abnormal cells. This isn’t all that painful but it does feel …… odd! Most pets will need sedation or anaesthesia for this. Larger or more dangerous lesions may need to be surgically cut out. The important thing is to catch them early and treat them soon!
Slip, Slop Slap all over again! But for your pet this time. Try and keep your pet inside during times of high UV radiation. This may mean staying indoors during the day and walking them in the cool of the evening. Pet sunscreen can be applied to at risk skin, some pets will tolerate this very well. There are very trendy sun suits available for dogs that provide excellent coverage and great protection – rashies for puppies! Some dogs will wear Doggles or hats to further protect their face.
With sensible sun exposure and regular skin checks your pet can enjoy the summer and stay safe. If you spot a change to your pets skin – get it checked out! Early detection is just so important.