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Charity warns of sun peril for pets after 29 skin cancer case treatments in year

Published 06/05/2016

Vets treated nearly 30 cases of skin cancer in pets, with light coloured animals particularly vulnerable to sun rays, in one year
Vets treated nearly 30 cases of skin cancer in pets, with light coloured animals particularly vulnerable to sun rays, in one year

Vet charity PDSA has urged pet owners to keep their animals safe in the sun after revealing its vets treated nearly 30 cases of skin cancer within a year.

The charity's vets are warning that it's not just humans who need protecting from the sun's harmful rays.

PDSA Pet Hospitals saw 29 cases of skin cancer between summer 2014 and 2015, the overwhelming majority of which were cats.

The charity also treated dozens of cats and dogs for sunburn in the same period.

Ahead of Sun Awareness Week which starts on Monday May 9, PDSA vet Vicki Larkham-Jones stressed the dangers of sun exposure to pets.

She said: "Most people are aware of the risks of sunburn, heat stroke and skin cancer to people but most owners are unaware that our pets face the same dangers.

"Our statistics show we treat a number of pets each year suffering from these conditions.

"Light coloured pets and those with thin coats, such as whippets and cats with white ears and noses are at highest risk as they have less natural protection against UV radiation from the sun.

"With a little more awareness and some basic precautions, we can keep our pets safer in sunny weather. And thanks to funding from players of People's Postcode Lottery we're able to reach more pet owners with this potentially life-saving advice."

One skin cancer patient treated by PDSA last year was three-legged cat Bobby.

The vet team at the charity's Manchester Pet Hospital operated to remove the tips of the seven-year-old's ears in a procedure known as a partial pinnectomy.

Bobby's owner, Maureen Edwards, 73, from Worsley, said: "I noticed the tips of Bobby's ears had started to go black, so I took him to PDSA where they diagnosed skin cancer.

"They explained that he would need to have the tips of his ears removed to stop it spreading. I was shocked as I didn't realise cats could get skin cancer."

Vet Fiona Buchan said: "It often comes as a big surprise to owners when they are told their pet has skin cancer because they think their fur acts as a natural sunscreen.

"White-furred pets like Bobby are at most risk because their skin lacks natural pigmentation which helps to block out the harmful UV rays. Areas with little fur, such as the tips of the ears, also get greater exposure to the sun's UV rays.

"Because Maureen brought Bobby to see us as soon as she spotted the first signs, we were able to operate and remove the cancerous tissue.

"In the future, keeping Bobby out of the sun as much as possible by providing a safe, shady area for him in the garden and using pet sunscreen will help prevent a recurrence."

PDSA's tips for pet safety in the sun are:

: Limit exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day.

: Use pet sun cream on white or thin fur, on the nose, ears and other vulnerable areas.

: See a vet urgently if you notice ulcers or sores on your pet's skin. Early diagnosis and treatment may save your pet's life.

If a pet is diagnosed with skin cancer, the most common form of treatment is removal of the tumour. Some forms of the disease may be treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy which may be used alone or in combination with surgery.

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From Belfast Telegraph