June 22, 2016 –  Vets are warning that it’s not just humans who need protecting from the sun’s harmful rays – our pets do too.

PDSA, the UK’s leading veterinary charity, said its 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.

“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,” said PDSA vet Vicki Larkham-Jones

“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.”

PDSA vet tips for pet safety in the sun:

  • Limit your pet’s exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day;
  • Use pet sun screen or children’s sun cream (with a high SPF) 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. Early diagnosis and treatment may increase a pet’s chances of survival.

For more advice and information on how to keep your pet safe this summer visitwww.pdsa.org.uk/summerhealth

Case study

Pensioner Maureen Edwards adopted three-legged cat Bobby in 2013. But in May 2015, Maureen noticed something wasn’t quite right with the seven-year-old white cat.

“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,” she said.

The vet team at PDSA’s Manchester Pet Hospital operated to remove the tips of Bobby’s ears in a procedure known as a partial pinnectomy.

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.”

For Maureen, PDSA’s free veterinary treatment has saved Bobby’s life.

“I adopted Bobby shortly after my husband died, but as a pensioner there’s no way I could have afforded the treatment he’s needed,” she said.

Photo: Bobby and Maureen.

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