We ™ve all heard the warnings: avoid the midday sun, wear hats, use your sunscreen. Even in the middle of winter, we know we need to be careful with sun exposure. Did you know that many animals have the same issues? White areas on animals of all species are subject to sun induced diseases. Sunburns can occur and eventually skin will become dry and crusty – a condition known as actinic keratosis. Skin induced cancers are quite common among pets, especially those that are short-haired and lightly pigmented. Melanomas, hemangiomas and squamous cell carcinoma are the most frequent sun induced cancers we see. Sighthounds such as Greyhounds and Whippets tend to get hemangiomas on the trunk and legs. Short-haired dogs with white tummies tend to get hemangiomas and squamous cell if they like to lay upside down in the sun. Most melanomas in pets are not sun induced, but they can occur. The most frequent problem we see is squamous cell carcinoma on cats with white faces or ears. This is my cat, Tripod. She was a rescue kitty and lived in my barn for years. She loved to hang out on the roof. I had to remove both of her ears due to squamous cell carcinoma (at least 8 years ago.) She now has the cancer on her nose (not in this photo.)
If you have a pet that loves to lay in the sun, protect it! Have dogs wear t-shirts. Put tinting in your windows where cats hang out. Don ™t let your pets in the sun between 10-4. Consider tattooing or sunscreen. If you think your pet might have cancer, come see us.
by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP