Pet-owners are being urged to slap sun cream on their dogs and cats during hot spells.
Veterinary expert Megan Jerred at leading pet insurance firm Animalfriends.co.uk said that sun-related illnesses in pets are on the rise.
She said: “We’ve seen a 20% increase in sun and heat related conditions in dogs since 2014, including dehydration and skin cancer - which can cost owners an average of £528 in vet bills.
According to the insurance company, melanoma and heat stroke are two of the most common and expensive seasonal summer conditions for pets - with claims for heat stroke treatment setting pet owners back as much as nearly £900 each summer and serious cases of skin cancer costing in excess of £2,000 to treat.
UK veterinary charity PDSA said between the summer of 2014 and summer 2015 their pet hospitals treated 29 pets for skin cancer and 25 for sunburn - almost all cats.
PDSA vet Rebecca Ashman said that most people who sought treatment for their pets were not even aware that animals can get cancer.
She said: “It often comes as a surprise to owners when they hear that pets can suffer from skin cancer, as some assume that fur will protect them from the sun.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t an effective barrier, and white-furred pets are at highest risk because their skin lacks natural pigmentation which helps to block out the harmful UV rays.”
Veterinary experts from both Animal Friends and PDSA also warn that areas with little fur, such as the tips of the ears, are at higher risk because of greater exposer to harmful rays.
And with temperatures set to climb to 20C by the middle of May, dog and cat owners are being advised to keep their animals indoors or in the shade.
“Keeping pets out of the sun as much as possible and ensuring they have constant access to shaded areas will help prevent skin cancer,” said Ms Ashman.
Pet owners are urged to seek immediate veterinary advice if they notice any changes to their pet’s skin, in particular if they notice ulcers or sores.
Megan Jerred also recommends the use of sunscreen made especially for pets, which can be purchased online or in leading pet stores - and should especially be used on pets with short, fine fur or areas of exposed skin.
If owners are unable to find pet sunscreen, they can also use sunblock designed for human babies or children- provided it is fragrance free and above SPF 15, and does not contain zinc oxide, which can be toxic to pets.
Sun Awareness Week this year is May 8th - 14th,
Top tips for keeping your animals safe in the sun
- Limit the amount of time pets spend in the sun, especially during the peak of the day.
- Use special pet sun cream on light or thin fur, the nose, ears or other exposed patches.
- Give them plenty of cool, clean water, refreshed regularly.
- Clip long-haired pets to prevent them from overheating.
- Never leave animals locked in cars, even for a few minutes.
- Avoid walking dogs between 8am and 5pm to avoid the main heat of the day.
- Consult a vet immediately if you notice ulcers, sores or sudden discolouration on your pet’s skin.