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Skin Cancer in Pets: A Comprehensive Guide

Did you know that as well as being a major cause of illness in humans, skin cancer also affects pets?

With Australia having one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and Queensland being the skin cancer capital of the world, pets are also at a high risk of developing skin cancer.

Our comprehensive guide below covers potential risk factors for your pet, signs and symptoms, as well as prevention tips, so you can keep your fur family sun safe. 

Pets at risk: identifying vulnerable companions

Pets with white coloured fur such as Dalmatians and short-haired breeds including Bull Mastiffs and Staffies fall into the high-risk skin cancer category. 

When it comes to our feline friends, ginger and white cats are the most susceptible, with white cats 18 times more likely to develop skin cancer and ginger cats coming in a close second.

Pets with allergies or severe skin conditions also face an elevated risk as irritated skin can be more prone to developing cancers.

Signs and symptoms for early detection

Just as you keep an eye on your own skin for any changes to moles or freckles, being just as attentive to your pet’s skin for any changes in appearance is crucial for early detection.  

Here are the top four signs pet parents should look out for:

  • Sunburn, sun spots and less commonly melanomas 
  • Scabs that gradually increase in size
  • Any raised spots on the skin
  • Any scratches that are not healing (regardless of how small they may be)

On dogs, signs will often appear on pink skin, particularly on their stomach or on the inside of their thighs. 

On cats, skin cancers are usually on the face, with the most common areas being on their head, eyelids, ears, nose and the region in front of their ears.

If you observe any irregularities, please get in touch with you local vet. 

Prevention Tips

  1. Annual skin checks: When you book your annual skin check, make sure you book your pet in for theirs at the same time, as regular veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection.

  2. "Slip" - sun suits: Consider protective clothing, such as sunsuits or rash guards, especially for high-risk dogs like Staffies, Bull Terriers and Dalmatians.

  3. "Slop" - pet sunscreen: Apply pet-safe sunscreen on exposed areas like ears, nose, muzzle and pink skin. For dogs, consistent application is effective, while it is not advised to use sun cream on cats due to their grooming habits. 

  4. Monitor problematic freckles and scratches: Stay vigilant for changes in freckles or scratches. For high-risk breeds, limit their sun exposure between 10am and 2pm.

Treatment options

If your pet is diagnosed with skin cancer, your local vet will provide advice around the best treatment options and may refer your pet to a specialist veterinary dermatologist for tailored care and treatment. Across the Animal Referral & Emergency Network we have specialist dermatologists and experienced vets with advanced training, find your nearest hospital here to view their list of services.

By keeping an eye on your pet’s skin and adopting sun-safety advice, you can ensure a happy and healthy life for your fur family. 


You can read more of our specialist veterinary news and stories here.

For referring vets, please use our online referral form to submit a case enquiry.


Our Network

Animal Referral & Emergency network is the largest specialty and referral network in Australia, consisting of over 20 sites. With over 1,200 dedicated team members, including over 600 nurses and over 390 veterinarians (including specialists and registrars), we provide exceptional care for your pets. Count on us for expert medical attention and comprehensive veterinary services.