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Why your dog needs sunscreen

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Unfortunately, Cancer is the number one cause of death in dogs over the age of 2, taking the lives of approximately 50% of all dogs over the age of 10. According to the Morris Animal Foundation - 1 in 4 dogs will die of cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer found in dogs. In fact, nearly one-third of all dogs diagnosed with cancer have a tumor that originated on the skin or from skin tissues.

Breeds Susceptible to Skin Cancer
While no breed is immune to cancer, bassett hounds, boxers, bull mastiffs, Chinese crested dogs, Norwegian elkhounds, Scottish terriers, Weimaraners, and white poodles are the most susceptible. Light colored, light skinned and dogs with thin fur have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer occurs most often in dogs 6 to 14 years of age, though some skin cancers occur in younger animals.

While the cause is often uncertain, it's believed that overexposure to the sun causes at least two types of skin cancer - squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Most pets have sufficient hair coats to protect them from the sun. However, certain parts of the body, such as the nose, ears, area around the mouth, belly and foot pads, are exposed to the sun's harmful rays.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer in Dogs
In order to identify potential problems at their earliest stages, examine your dog monthly by separating the hair with your fingers to closely look at the skin. Malignant tumors grow much faster and have poorly defined boundaries compared to those that are harmless and pain free. If you detect any of the following, contact your veterinarian immediately.

  • Areas of color change, or scaly, crusty lesions.
  • New growths or a change in color or size of an existing growth calls
  • Moles and warts that bleed easily or areas that do not to heal
  • An area the dog is continually licking or scratching
  • Swelling in the breast tissue or discharge from a nipple
  • Suspicious lumps or areas of discoloration under the tail
  • Masses or tissue that seems different from surrounding areas in the mouth

Other general symptoms may include: appetite loss, bloody vomit, diarrhea, dark or black feces, lethargy, coughing, labored breathing, delayed wound healing and enlarged lymph nodes.

Prevention of Skin Cancer in Dogs
Inspect your dog’s skin regularly and thoroughly. Check under the dog's belly, on the bottom of its paws, in between the footpads, mouth areas and so on. Frequent bathing and regular grooming will help you spot things quickly. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.

For pets that exhibit multiple risk factors, the following preventative steps are recommended:

  • UV protective clothing
  • Custom-fitted sunglasses
  • Pet Sunscreen with SPF such as Epi-Pet Sunscreen, the ONLY pet sunscreen that meets FDA guidelines. For more details please click HERE.
  • It is advisable to keep your pet indoors, out of the sun, between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.

Most veterinarians will say "when in doubt, check it out." The best approach is the active approach. By inspecting your pet often and taking preventative measures, you’ll be ensuring that you and your pet lead long, happy and healthy lives together.