Use Sunscreen to Reduce White Dog’s Skin Cancer Risk

Trimming face and feet hair won’t increase risk of dog skin cancer.


Q. I understand that dogs with white coats are prone to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Does shaving a white Poodle’s face and feet increase the risk? Also, what is the ideal length of body coat in summer in relation to sun exposure, heat, ticks and fleas?

A. It is true that white-coated dogs tend to have a higher risk for skin cancer and other skin diseases, just as blonde and redheaded humans do.
It probably is fine to trim the hair off of your Poodle’s face and feet, but avoid trimming the body hair too closely, since it provides some protection from the sun. One of the most common sites of skin cancer in dogs is on their hairless bellies, when they tend to lounge in the sun lying on their backs.
Some white-coated dogs such as Border Collies also are susceptible to skin cancer on their noses, especially if they are missing some black pigment, a protective substance containing melanin.
The primary strategy to minimize skin cancer risk in light-coated dogs is to minimize sun exposure and use an effective sunscreen ointment on their noses if they do not have protective pigment. Although the zinc in the ointment is potentially toxic, it is rare that dogs can lick enough to create a problem.


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Courtney   East Rochester, New York

12/19/2013 10:47:33 AM

Good idea, but I don't know if I'll use it right now. My all-white dog only EVER goes out of the house to "use the tree". She's 14 and has no sign of anything cancerous. My mottled dog, who IS outside for most of the day in the summer, is middle aged and DOES have polyps. It's winter now. so I'd have to remember the sunscreen in the summer. Now you'll say it's important in the winter too, and I get that, but she'd still drip it everywhere with the melting snow.

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