Sun-Damaged Skin In Dogs And Cats

Did you know that pets experience sunburn, too?

White-coated dogs and cats are at the most risk, as they tend to have little pigment in their skin, matching the low pigment level in their hair.

Like people, sunburned pets are predisposed to UVA- and UVB-related skin changes, including skin cancer.

Pets need not even go outdoors to experience these problems. It is a common problem of sun-worshipping cats who like to sit in windows and watch the world go by. Add white ears to the equation and cancer may not be far behind.

Right now I’m treating a patient, Jack, for squamous cell carcinoma, a kind of skin cancer. Jack is a sunbather who likes to lie on his back in the heat of the day. Years of sun exposure have led to these lesions, which are so widespread that surgery is not an option. We are limited to palliative treatment, and even it has side effects.

The pale area on the bridge of the nose, right behind the black part, is also an area predisposed to experiencing the sun’s harmful effects.

Sunscreen can help prevent skin damage in places where it can stay. Unfortunately, anyplace a pet’s tongue can reach isn’t going to have sunscreen on it for long. And that includes the bridge of the nose and the underbelly. Cats’ ears, on the other hand, make an excellent place to use sunscreen.

Few of us could bear to close the blinds on our world-view kitties, but taking precautions can be lifesaving.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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