Dear Porky and Buddy,
I have a white pit bull, Buster, whom I adopted last winter and he is the love of my life. The other day after we got home from the beach, where we go to play, I noticed that his back looked a little red, almost as if he had a sunburn. Is that possible? Is it dangerous? What should I do to prevent it? Am I overreacting?
Remember the good old days when we called companion animals “pets,” and no one had ever heard of heartworm or deer ticks and we fed them mostly table scraps?
Life with our animals, with everything actually, was a lot simpler – of course there was no Animal Welfare Act, or Voting Rights Act, EPA, or Americans With Disabilities Act either and we all pretty much had to fend for ourselves.
The point being that, for better or worse, we know a lot more now about how to take better care of each other and our world and our “companion animals” and we have to just buck up and do it.
So no, you are not overreacting.
Skin cancer is a serious issue for dogs with pale skin and short hair, like Buster, also greyhounds and other related mixed breed dogs and even cats with pink noses.
Statistically speaking, 33% of tumors in dogs start on the skin and 25% of those are malignant. 25% of all cancer in cats starts in the skin, and a whopping 75% of feline skin cancers are malignant. (That does not count basal cell tumors which are always relatively benign.)
Even worse news, sunlight can be reflected off a beach or sidewalk and onto your dog’s belly where skin cancers often start.
So you need to treat sun exposure as carefully with your pets as your toddlers and yourself.
Avoid the hottest and sunniest part of the day for walks and playing.
Tint the windows where your cat naps with a privacy film with UV protection.
You can find such film at the big box home supply stores.
Get Buster and yourself some sun safe clothing.
Sure, you’ll look like a geek. But, Buster does not have the geek concept in his list of things to be embarrassed about so what do you care?
Don’t shave him (or any dog) down very closely. His fur is good protection from the sun.
And finally, and you knew it was coming to this, there are sun screens for animals.
Get him some.
He has already been burned once. Don’t let it happen again.
Don’t use human sunscreen – you don’t know whether it has been tested for cats or dogs.
And check his skin carefully all over at least once a month for and bumps or lesions that look odd to you and report them to your vet.
Remember, summer is wonderful in Oswego County and all too fleeting. So, enjoy it, but don’t let it be dangerous to your best friend.
Speaking of the last days of summer, Every Dog Has Its Day on September 15 at the Oswego County Humane Society’s annual 5K Walk or run and 1M Family Walk and Family and Pet Celebration.
Lunch is provided and there will be lots of fun family activities.
Admission is free (although you can help raise money for OCHS and win prizes) and you can sign up online at www.oswegohumane.org
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.
Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, NY.
Phone (315) 207-1070.
Because people and pets are good for each other.