Skin Cancer and Your Pets: It's More Common Than You Think
by: Grant Carroll
These days, skin cancer is a concern for everyone. It’s easy to go to the grocery store and find a large variety of sun block with all the different SPF levels. It’s not news that ultraviolet radiation is dangerous, but it might be news that it’s just as dangerous for your dog or cat as it is for us.
No one wants to suffer the pain of watching their little one go through skin cancer, so it’s important to take the proper steps to avoid the disease. Skin cancer is surprisingly common in dogs and cats, and the main culprit is the same one for humans…UV radiation. Even though your friend is furry, he or she is still susceptible to overexposure of the sun. Not to worry, though, there are simple and even fun steps one can take to protect their dog or cat.
According to Dr. Ruthanne Chun, assistant professor and oncology researcher at Kansas State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, skin cancer is the most common cancer among dogs and the second most common among cats. For dogs, 450 of every 100,000 will be diagnosed with skin cancer, and for cats it’s 120 of every 100,000.
Just as with humans, UV rays from the sun play a large role in causing skin cancer with dogs and cats. Many owners may think that their dog’s or cat’s coat will protect them, but this is only partially true. Many breeds have short, thin coats and fair skin on their ears and bellies. These areas are in the most danger of developing skin cancer.
Aside from overexposure to UV, other known causes of skin cancer are viruses, hormones, burns, genetics and vaccines (only in cats). Once an owner educates him or herself about these causes, the proper steps can be taken to prevent skin cancer in dogs and cats.
Dr. Mary Bagladi-Swanson, assistant professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says that one can simply apply an SPF 30 sunblock to their dog’s or cat’s exposed areas. It’s usually best to apply the lotion to the ears, belly and any other bare or barely covered skin. It absorbs into the skin and protects your pet even in they lick it. It’s also a good idea to try and keep your dog or cat out of the sun during the strong hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Another step you could take involves dog clothing and pet clothing. It’s the same concept for humans: the skin that’s covered by clothing will be protected from the sun. Surfers who take their dogs to the beach with them all day have a special kind of dog clothes called a body suit. If you’re planning on spending a day at the park, then it’s a good idea to consider bringing along some dog clothes or pet clothes like a shirt or hat. If your dog or cat will wear them, then not only will they be cute, they’ll be protected!
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