Now that summer is well and truly here on the sunny south coast, it is important to ensure your cat is safe from the danger of skin cancer. Not all cats are sensible and sit in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Some, like humans, like to sit out in the sun catching the rays. But like us, cats can suffer damage from the sun’s rays. White cats or those with non-pigmented patches of skin and older cats are all more susceptible than most to sun damage. Luckily, there are pet friendly sun blocks that can be applied.
The most commonly affected areas are the ears, nose and eyelids. The surrounding tissue is destroyed and sometimes the tumour can spread to the lymph glands and lungs, which is why it is important to protect your cat and to monitor him or her closely. Regular grooming is important to pick up early signs. It’s also a welcome treat for your cat during the hot summer days to have a good grooming session that will remove excess fur!
Early signs of skin cancer are the area turning pink, and sometimes hair loss and scaling. Continued damage can lead to crusting of the area which, if left untreated, can lead to skin cancer. The skin becomes very red and there may be ulcerated patches with raised, hardened edges. Bleeding can sometimes occur. If caught early and treated (which includes removal of the affected tissue), the outcome is usually very good.
To avoid skin cancer becoming an issue, it is advisable to ensure that any cat susceptible to sun damage is kept indoors during the hottest or sunniest part of the day. Remember also that even on overcast days, UV levels can be high, so check out the local weather forecast for this information. If you can, try to create a shady part of your garden or outdoor space that is safe and pleasant for your cat to enjoy.
If your cat is not overly fussy, sunblock can be used. It is advisable to seek advice from your veterinarian about the best options. A human sunblock for babies is usually also considered safe for cats, but there are also specific products for cats. If using a human sunblock, opt for hypoallergenic, fragrance and dye-free products. Never use products containing zinc oxide as this can cause toxic side effects. If your cat has a rash or reaction to the sunblock, wash the product off.