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Surf and Turf Issue

bronze bods When I talk to pet parents about sun safety, most scoff at the idea of sunscreens or protective clothing for their furry friends — but many have also never considered whether their pets can tan. In humans, tanning of the skin is one of our body’s basic defenses against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays; the skin darkens with the help of a pigment called melanin, which reduces UV rays’ penetration into cells. Our pets don’t seem to produce much melanin, particularly on the face, nose, ears and other areas with little or no hair, which makes them more susceptible to sun damage. Obviously, fur-covered areas of a pet’s body are better protected from the sun’s rays, but pets who are hairless or have thin coats, light pigmentation and pink noses are particularly at risk. risky rays Soaking up sun may sound like fun to you, but your pet’s health can be harmed by overexposure. Here are a few of the conditions that could be created or worsened by too much time in the sun: ! Solar dermatitis: The leading sun-related condition veterinarians see is solar dermatitis, or skin damage due to extended exposure to ultraviolet light (UVL). It’s caused by repetitive “sunburns,” so the areas exposed to the sun, like the top of the muzzle, nose and tummy, are most at risk. Affected skin turns bright pink, followed by thickening and roughness, and can look similar to eczema in people. ! Skin cancers: Like people, dogs and cats who are repeatedly exposed to the sun can develop skin cancer — and it happens more often than you might think. The most common types of suninduced skin cancers are melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), hemangioma and hemangiosarcoma. Skin biopsies can be performed during a physical exam; your vet will numb the area around the lesion before taking a sample, and close it with a small stitch or staple. I view every freckle or mole as a potential threat, so if you observe an unusual spot or fastgrowing lump, don’t delay. Have it checked by your vet immediately. ! Irritation: Sunlight can also exacerbate allergies and other skin conditions; I see pets suffering more severe itching and redness after they’ve been in the sun too long. If your pets experience skin problems due to allergies, protect them from the sun as much as possible. Other skin conditions we see include development of comedones (blackheads), skin infections and scarring. made in the shade Remember, any pet who sees the light of day can be at risk, but pet parents of these furry friends should take extra precautions: • White-skinned, shorthaired breeds such as Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Bull Terriers and Beagles are at higher risk for solar dermatitis. • Keeshonds, Standard Schnauzers, Basset Hounds and Collies seem to develop squamous cell carcinoma at a higher rate than other breeds. • Pets prone to conditions that cause hair loss, including hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease and pattern-alopecia have less natural sun protection; these include short-coated breeds like Dachshunds, Greyhounds, Boxers, Weimaraners and Chihuahuas. barks feature | solar power 42 the surf & turf issue


Surf and Turf Issue
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