Bruiser's dangerous love of the sun

Bruiser is 10 year old domestic male cat who loves spending time outside in the sun. He loves interacting with the other cats in his area and also heating himself up under the sun. Recently, scabs have started to appear at the tip of his nose and he was presented to the Pascoe Vale Veterinary Hospital for a check up. On examination, Bruiser had a few scratches on his face and nose from fighting with the other cats in his neighbourhood. He also had a scab on the left side of the nose that when removed, revealed ulceration of the surface of the nose. Due to Bruiser having a light coloured nose and his favourite past time of spending a lot of time sun-tanning, it was suspected that the ulceration on his nose was due to UV damage.

Animals with light coloured hair in areas where the hair growth is quite thin usually suffer more damage from UV radiation after prolonged sun exposure. This is commonly seen in white coloured cats on their nose and tip of their ears. In dogs, it can be seen on the underside of the belly when dogs lie on their backs under the sun for long periods of time.

A common cancerous change that can occur in these areas of skin where there is UV damage is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This condition is invasive locally, starting with scabbing, then ulceration of the skin and tends to only spread to other parts of the body (e.g lymph nodes) when the disease is more advanced. Hence, complete surgical removal of the affected areas early on in the disease process often provides a good chance of a cure. Without surgery, the cancer tends to eat away at the tissue of the affected area and cause ulcerations that can be very painful and uncomfortable. These ulcerated areas are also more prone to infections. Progression of this disease can definitely alter an animal's quality of life.

For Bruiser, the disease was detected early enough and he underwent surgery to remove the left side of his nose. He also had reconstruction of the area with a small skin flap to allow a better cosmetic appearance after surgery. When the results of the histopathology tests (of the part of nose removed) came back, everyone was overjoyed! It revealed complete removal of the Squamous Cell Carcinoma lesion so Bruiser did not require any follow up treatment. He has done exceptionally well after surgery and is back to his regular activities, not affected at all by the absence of part of his nose. Now, his owners just have to try to limit sun exposure as much as they can to minimise his risk of developing similar lesions on other areas of the nose.

The best way to minimise unnecessary exposure to the sun would be to keep your pets indoors, especially in the mid-afternoon periods when UV radiation is the greatest. Owners of light coloured cats (e.g pure white cats) should consider keeping their cats indoors only. Use of sunscreen on areas of the skin where the skin is sparsely covered in light-coloured hair can help minimise exposure. If think your pet might be at high risk and would like more tips to minimise sun exposure, please feel free to contact us at the clinic.