With the arrival of summer it is a good time to remind pet owners of the damaging effects of UV rays, especially on animals that have been bred with white or non-pigmented extremities. 

With the well-documented hole in our ozone layer, burn time for us is usually reported around 10 -15 minutes.  Animals, bred by us, without pigment would burn much faster.  We therefore need to take steps to protect our pets.

Areas at risk

  * White ("non-pigmented") noses - on cats this is more common on the smooth bit at the front called the planum. On dogs it is usually the bridge of the nose especially if it is long with no pigment, particularly on collies.

  * White ear margins - initially these will get sunburnt, and then scabbed so that now there is no hair cover making the UV rays more damaging.

  * Eyelids - especially lower lids.

What can you do about it?

  * keep prone animals indoors during the worst part of the day (10 a.m. -3 p.m.)

  * apply a U.V. blocker - currently the best available for pets is Filtabac. It is quite tenacious so one application around 10 a.m. usually lasts over the critical period. Human sun blockers tend to accumulate and some appear to be an irritant.

  * it's best not to breed white or albino animals.

  * tattooing has been shown to be ineffective.

Once an animal has developed a cancerous tumour on the ears or nose, the best treatment is early surgery.

The type of cancer that results is a little unusual in that it produces an erosive ulcerating lesion rather than a discreet growth.  With time this cancer eats away more and more of the area. Early surgical intervention is the most effective treatment but not always successful.  An early option is cryosurgery where the affected site is frozen into an iceball hopefully killing all the cancer cells.  Again, early re-treatment of any regrowth is the most effective. In advanced cases, ears and even nose tips can be amputated to try and remove the cancer. I have performed total nose removals on several cats and the result is not as bad as you might imagine.  It's certainly better than the result of untreated cancer.

© Brett Kirkland

Beach Road Vet Clinic, New Zealand



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