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Protect your pet against skin cancer

dog and ownerSpreading on the sunscreen to protect against the sun’s harmful rays? It might be a good idea to save a little for Rover.

According to Dr. Ruthanne Chun, assistant professor and oncology researcher at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, cats and dogs can develop skin cancer lesions just as humans do.

Estimates show that for every 100,000 dogs, 450 are diagnosed with some form of skin or subcutaneous-tissue (structures just below the skin) cancer, and 120 cats are diagnosed for every 100,000. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among dogs and is the second most common cancer in cats.

Protect pets from sun
The sun plays a big role in the development of skin cancer among cats and dogs, just as it does for humans.

"Just like fair-skinned people are more likely to have problems with skin cancer, white dogs and cats are more prone to skin cancers, especially on the areas of their body that are thinly haired, such as the belly on dogs, and the ear tips and around the eyes on cats," says Chun.

A pet owner can help to prevent skin cancer with common sense measures. White cats and cats with white on their face, and dogs with thin-hair coats should not be outdoors during peak hours of sun exposure – especially around midday.

Finding and treating skin cancer
How can you tell if your pet might have skin cancer and what kind of treatment will he receive?

"Skin cancer may be a concern with any lump that persists or grows, is red or irritated looking, bleeds, or if the animal licks or scratches continuously at the site," Chun said. Any lump should be evaluated by a veterinarian."

Not all tumors are caused by exposure to the sun. Chun said that viruses, hormones, genetics, vaccines and burns are also associated with skin cancer.

Treatment for skin cancer is dictated based on the type of tumor, but surgery is the most common treatment. Radiation therapy, cryotherapy (freezing the tumor), and chemotherapy are all used in the treatment process.

For more information about pets and skin cancer, visit the Kansas State University’s website at

Vet Views Disclaimer: Best Friends Pet Care does not provide veterinary services through this website. ALWAYS consult your local veterinarian if your pet is displaying symptoms or behaviors that concern you.