Burnt hot dogs are for barbecues so use pet sunscreen

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WHILE it may be more likely to be raining cats and dogs this summer, we still hold out for the hope of that odd glorious day of sun to brighten up our lives.

When that day does come we're all eager to get as much of it as possible and, while being well aware of the dangers posed by sunlight to our skin, there is often a member of the household that's overlooked.

The danger of this oversight is highlighted in the recent case of Summer, a stray cat brought into the Blue Cross' South London centre. Prolonged sun exposure to her ears had resulting in Summer developing skin cancer.

"Sadly we had no alternative but to amputate both ears," Caroline Reay, chief veterinary surgeon, explains.

"She is a healthy cat now but her condition could have been really serious if allowed to spread.

"The drastic treatment could have been avoided if she had been protected from the sun's harmful rays."

Temperatures in south-east England are generally a couple of degrees warmer than in Scotland but, with global warming and the thermometer in summer rising, it is likely to be an increasingly important issue here.

"Sunburn leading to cancer is an occasional problem in Scotland, but more of an issue further south," says Alistair Marks, vet at the Oak Tree Veterinary Centre in Edinburgh.

He says the signs that your cat may have skin damage from exposure start when "initially the skin becomes red and the thin edge becomes thicker or folded over. Continued exposure leads to ulceration and from there the emergence of cancerous cells." Mr Marks warns that early detection is the key, stating that "as with ourselves any unexplained lesions on the skin" require prompt veterinary attention and can "literally be the difference between life or death".

It's not just cats that can succumb to skin damage. Dogs, horses and cattle are amongst the animals also at risk.

"Some animals are more susceptible to skin damage than others," explains Jo Wilson, press officer for the SSPCA. "Short-haired animals such as dalmatians and greyhounds can burn their backs and most pets have sparse coats on their abdomen."

Animals with white hair and white or pink noses are at greater risk to the dangers. In some warmer countries, cancer of the nose is such a problem that tattooing the nose black is often carried out to up UV resistance.

The best way to safeguard your pet from the risk of skin damage, says Mr Marks, is "the application of a waterproof, high-factor sunscreen". Some human sunscreen is, however, toxic for animals, which is why products such as Yumega sunscreen are specifically tailored to pets.

Additionally, keep your pet out of the sun from 11am to 3pm, and even an old T-shirt being put on a short-haired pet can make all the difference.

Caroline Reay urges people planning days out this summer to "spare a thought for your pets".

YOUR GUIDE TO KEEPING YOUR PET SAFE IN THE SUMMER SUN

AT RISK:

Pale and bare-coated pets are vunerable to sunburn which can lead to skin cancer.

Cats, dogs, horses and cattle are amongst the animals most likely to suffer skin damage.

Cats and dogs are particularly sensitive around the ears, back (if bare or thinly covered) and abdomen.

Also noses if light-coloured can be susceptible to skin damage.

WARNING SIGNS:

Red and painful-looking skin. Ears on cats becoming red, thicker at the edge than usual, or folded.

Hair loss, especially in dogs where sun stimulates immune system to trigger this, colour change and nose scabbing.

Ulceration or unexplained lesions on the skin.

PREVENTION:

Sunblock can help animals. Make sure that it is high-factor and non-toxic. There are a range of animal specific products such as Yumega sunscreen to make sure that it won't harm your pet.

Keep animals out of direct sunlight during the sun's most harmful time of 11am-3pm. If a pet has to be outside during this time, make sure that shade is available for them.

Putting an old T-shirt on a dog to protect its back from UV sunlight when sun is particularly potent.

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