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  • Dr. Jan Lodewyk de Klerk BVSc

Skin Cancer in Light-skinned Pets

Living in South Africa we are all accustomed to getting plenty of sunshine and we know how to handle the harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays associated with it. Our pets on the other hand are not always as fortunate as they can’t wear a hat, sunglasses or even long sleeve clothing when they feel the heat upon their skins .

Luckily for most breeds of pets this is normally not an issue because the are born with a dark pigment in their skin called melanin and this pigment helps to protect them from the harmful effects of UV rays. Unfortunately, some of our fur-babies are not born with this pigment on certain parts or even over most of their bodies and they have white or pink skin as a result. This pink skin almost always has white fur growing from it which also provides less protection than darker colored fur.

Certain breeds such as Bull Terriers, Jack Russell and Pitt Bulls often have large areas of pink skin and they are fond of sun bathing on their backs, exposing their sensitive bellies to the sun.

White or pink skin is very sensitive to UV rays and can easily get sun-burnt if exposed for prolonged periods of time. The UV rays can also damage the skin, causing tiny little red dots that look like small blood vessels in the skin. This skin damage can easily turn cancerous and these cancers pose a great risk to the health of your pet.

The cancer start off as tiny little wound on the skin that gradually get larger and no matter how well you treat them they do not get any better. As they get larger they start to bleed, become painful and irritating to your pet and as a result they will be licked or scratched in an attempt to get rid of the irritation. If left untreated these cancers will become larger and larger and treatment becomes more difficult.


The only curative treatment is to remove these cancers surgically and the smaller the growths the greater the chance of successful removal. These cancers tend to be very invasive in the skin surrounding them and as a result a margin of 2-3 cm of healthy skin around the cancer also has to be removed with it in order to reduce the chances of the cancer returning. It is therefore VERY IMPORTANT that any suspect skin lesions be inspected by a veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure that these cancers can be treated successfully. (image to the right is of multiple squamous cell carcinomas removed in a Pit Bull Terrier)


High SPF sunblock (At least 40 or 50) can be applied to the sensitive parts of your pets’ skin every day, especially if they love being outdoors or sunbathing. Protective doggy or kitty jackets can be worn during the day if your pet is comfortable wearing clothing. Alternatively provide plenty of shade for them, but please note that UV rays can still reach your pets in the shade.

So, if you have a fur baby with sensitive skin, please be aware of these skin cancers because early detection, treatment and prevention will help your fiend to stay healthy and happy.

Contact us for a free surgery quote in the month of August 2018

#pets #skincancer

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