Your pet not immune to effects of summer sun

By Dr. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

While walking through a shopping center last week, I saw the first sunscreen display of the year. It reminded me of what seemed like my dad’s favorite summertime phrase, “Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!”

It was good advice. Almost as good as, “If you go outside, wear a hat.”

Both phrases were intended to protect skin from the effects of the sun’s rays. I wish I had remembered to wear sunscreen more often and would like to have passed that advice to more of my friends who work in barnyards and pastures.

In veterinary medicine, we see several skin conditions related to the sun. Probably the most uncommon condition is the pig with sunburn. Sunburned pigs are becoming rare, as the number of kept pigs declines and they are more often housed inside and away from the harmful solar rays.

In cattle, the most notable condition is squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. This cancer is seen around the eyes of white-faced cattle. Cattle regularly affected are those that live in sunny climates and are kept on pasture. If noticed early, the cancer can be removed.

Squamous cell carcinoma is not restricted to cattle. We also see it in dogs and cats. For dogs, it tends to be a problem on areas of white or pink skin with little to no hair. You might see it on the stomach of a dog that spends summer days lying on his back in a sunny part of the yard. First, you might notice a sunburned appearance on the pale skin.

Then, the area may look thickened and raw. Later, the site may become raised and the surrounding skin feels thick to the touch.

With cats, the cancer is most often seen in individuals with white coats and pale or pink skin. Usually it affects pink noses and pink ear tips. To begin with it may appear like scratches or sores. Unlike dogs, these cats do not have to be regular sunbathers.

Squamous cell carcinoma tends to affect the local tissue and does not like to spread from the skin to other parts of the body. If it is found early, it can be successfully removed.

Even though it is not practical to apply sunscreen to your dog or cat every day, it is a good idea to have any new sores checked as soon as possible.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach the clinic at 669-7717.