Should my pet wear sunscreen?

Skin cancer does not only affect humans, dogs and cats are at risk too. So do we need to apply sunscreen to our pets to protect them from the sun? Well believe it or not the sun can cause serious damage to our four-legged friends. If left out in the searing sun for too long their skin can burn resulting in severe damage.

Benign and malignant skin tumours?

Skin cancers that affect the skin can be either benign or malignant. The most dangerous of skin cancers is the melanoma, mast cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Benign tumours are slow growing and are generally move freely in the subcutaneous tissue when palpated. Malignant tumours spread rapidly and invade surrounding issues, becoming inflamed, red and ulcerated.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian may be able to identify a lump by its appearance, however to make a definite diagnosis a sample of the lump is removed through a very simple procedure known as a fine need aspirate. A thin needle is inserted into the lump and a sample is taken and placed onto a glass slide to view under a microscope. In some cases where a larger sample is required for testing a biopsy punch may be needed. This procedure is usually performed under sedation or local anaesthetic. These samples are sent to laboratory where a pathologist examines them and reports the results to us usually within a week’s time.

Treatment

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed the lump they then will be able to plan the most suitable treatment for your pet. The location of the tumour can affect how the lump is treated. Surgically removing benign tumours is not always recommended, however malignant tumours should be removed. These tumours require a large excision to ensure all the cancerous cells are removed. Additional treatment like chemotherapy may be required dependent on the severity of the tumour. Click here for more about chemotherapy. We highly recommend having any lumps and bumps you find on your pet examined. Malignant lumps can grow dangerously fast and in a matter of weeks can double in size and spread to other parts of the body.

How can I prevent skin cancer?

So the answer to whether you ‘should apply sunscreen to your pets’ is yes. However ensure it is a ‘pet’ sunscreen, there are plenty on the market that would be suitable for your pet. Always make sure there is plenty of shade for your pet so they can avoid the brisk sun if they need to. Pet’s that have white or pale skin will more likely suffer from sunburn.

Remember early detection is very important! Don’t wait to see if the lump grows. Have it checked out by your veterinarian.