Pet health: Protecting your pet from skin cancer

Just as you protect yourself with a good sunscreen before heading out in the sunshine, you should give your pet a thought as well. Pets suffer from skin cancer just as humans, and as we head outside with them during the hot, sizzling summer days we should be concerned about their skin being exposed to the harmful ultraviolet rays.

Dogs and cats particularly susceptible to skin cancer are those with white fur. These pets need extra care and your vet can direct you towards a safe sunscreen product. Do not feel tempted to use the same sunscreen you are using. A dog and cat’s skin is much more delicate than ours requiring specific products. Also, some products used in human sunscreens are toxic to pets. Products containing zinc oxide should be avoided as they can make a pet very sick if licked off.

When thinking of skin cancer, most owners think of outdoor pets basting in the sun. But also indoor pets can be affected, just think of cats laying on the windowsill or dogs sleeping with their tummy facing up next to a window.

The areas most affected by skin cancer appear to be the ears and the nose. These areas are mostly affected by squamous cell carcinomas, and appear as a skin sore that will be reluctant to heal. Just about any area where the skin is thin or hairless should be considered vulnerable to skin cancer, this includes the hairless inguinal area between the back legs, the nail beds and the often forgotten paw pads.

As a preventative measure, it is essential that you routinely inspect your dog and cat’s skin to detect any abnormalities. These are signs that should be evaluated by your vet as soon as noticed:

A new lump

An ulcer that is reluctant to heal

A cauliflower appearance growth

Enlarged lymph nodes


Skin redness

Flaky appearance

If your dog or cats is usually shaved down in the summer months, keep in mind that he/she has less protection from the sun-rays and may need sunscreen. The same concept also applies to those hairless dog breeds, very popular today.

While squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of cancer due to ultraviolet radiation, there are also other forms of potentially malignant forms of cancer that are not directly linked to sunlight exposure. Such cancers are:


Sebaceous adenomas



Mast cell tumors

The majority of malignant skin cancers occur in middle aged to senior dogs.

It is a fact that skin cancer is the most common cancer in dogs and the second most common cancer in cats, so when it comes to preventive measures, the better safe than sorry approach is fundamental. Keep your dog or cat away from harmful sun-rays especially if your dog or cat’s coat is light in color. Always apply sunscreen as directed by your vet and particularly in vulnerable areas. Avoid exposure in the peak hours between 10 AM and 2 PM. Carefully and routinely inspect the dog or cat’s skin for any abnormal growths, lumps, ulcers or ulcers and sores failing to heal appropriately.

It appears that more and more dogs and cats are being diagnosed with skin cancer. The reason behind this apparent increase is mostly due to the fact that pets are living much longer lives and therefore, sooner or later develop diseases that once were pretty unusual.

When it comes to taking care of your four legged friend, nothing works better than tender loving care and the implementation of preventive measures to safeguard their health.

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