Sun Damage in Pets

The Hot Island Sun

Here in Turks and Caicos, we deal with some powerful sun and UV rays that are damaging to objects, humans and creatures alike. Imagine how we can suffer from sunburn, well the same is true for our animal friends with bare skin or light coats. They too need protection from the sun to prevent painful burns and skin cancer.

Damage to the Skin Barrier

Damage to these layers causes loss of water, ability for various microscopic items to gain access to the deeper layers and cause detrimental inflammatory reactions, ongoing skin irritation, pain and infections, lifelong allergies and of course skin cancer.

The Skin – Our Pet’s Largest Organ

The skin is the largest organ in our dog or cat’s body. It has several layers to protect animals from the elements, irritants and allergens in the environment. It also covers the largest surface area, which means it has a greatest exposure to the sun. Much like for humans, the sun can be very damaging to our pets and can cause painful sunburns, little but very abundant in number tumors, and malignant cancer later in their life. 

What Pets are Most at Risk?

All pets are at risk for sun damage here in the very sunny Turks and Caicos, however; animals that have white or light-colored fur or skin on their nose, ears and underbelly, are similar to fair skinned people and are more at risk. This issue can affect any pet, including dogs, cats, goats, pigs, horses and cattle.

Prevention and Protection are the Best Defense

Protecting fair haired pets by keeping them in shaded areas during the hottest and direct sunlight portions of the day is imperative. Providing plenty of sun shelter and shade for pets is necessary, but they often prefer to sun themselves and this alone can be detrimental. It is best that these pets are kept in a porch or indoors other than around dawn and dusk when the sun is low, to prevent life-long issues due to chronic sun damage.

Pet sunscreens can be helpful for those pets that are going to be in the sun and are particularly useful to apply on areas where the fur is sparse, such as nose, ears and underbelly. Bark and Bliss carries a few brands of pet sunscreens to help keep them safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Solar Dermatitis

Solar dermatitis is a significant damage to the skin, secondary to chronic sun exposure. It often is visible on the bridge of the nose, muzzle and sometimes the ears. It appears as dark pink to red flakey and peeling skin, which can be ulcerated and bleeding in some cases. Solar dermatitis is similar to a severe sunburn that blisters and peels over time. It is the first level of severe sun damage.

Sun Tumors, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma

Benign sun tumors, called hemangiomas, often will show up in pets that have had chronic sun exposure around the age of 4 – 8 years of age. They look similar to blood blisters but continue to grow, ulcerate and ooze until several need removal. The pets continue to get them and require frequent surgery to have them removed the rest of their life. These tumors can become malignant, but often are just menacing and irritating.

Melanoma and Squamous Cell Carcinomas, however; are cancerous and aggressive tumors that occur secondary to sun exposure as well. Because of their aggressive nature, they tend to be in areas that are difficult to remove with clean margins, and can metastasize quickly to other parts of the body.

Treatment for Tumors

For the tumors, surgery is often what is required but in many cases the tumors are in areas where full removal is difficult. It is also good to keep in mind, the tumors occur due to sun damage that happened in the past so the change to the DNA has been done and more tumors are likely to continue to occur throughout the pet’s life.

Intestinal Parasites

The Importance of Routine Treatment

Routine deworming removes the intestinal parasites from your pet’s system. Many of the heartworm prevention options for dogs and cats we carry, have broad spectrum coverage against intestinal parasites. So, as you prevent their heartworm disease, you are also doing routine deworming.

Are Humans at
Risk Too?

The short answer is yes! Because we have such a high concentration of parasites in our environment, it is more common for people to get intestinal parasites here. Letting a pet lick your face is a risk as well and should ideally be avoided.

Where do they come from?

Intestinal parasites are extremely common here, due to our roaming domestic animal population. Animal’s that have intestinal parasites, leave deposits of their eggs within their stool, which are then in our soil. All it takes is a pet to lick its paws after being outside, eating food that is on the ground, rolling in the dirt or licking the floor after we walk in with our shoes to get exposed and ingest intestinal parasite eggs. In addition, animals that have fleas or have eaten an animal with fleas, will nearly always have tapeworms as the flea is a common host of tapeworm larvae.

Why are Intestinal Parasites so Concerning?

Intestinal parasites are detrimental in numerous ways to mammals. Hookworms and whipworms take a blood meal from their host, so they can cause severe anemia and can kill puppies and kittens, whereas roundworms and tapeworms clog up the intestinal tract and take nutrients from the host. This can lead to poor growth and death in puppies and kittens, leaky vessels due lack of protein,  poor body condition, and dull and brittle haircoats in adult animals. In severe cases in adult animals, it can lead to blockage of the intestinal tract as well. It more mild cases, we will often see diarrhea and vomiting. 

The Role of Tapeworms…again.

Tapeworms utilize fleas as hosts, which means when a pet ingests a flea, which happens as they clean themselves or eat another animal infested with fleas, they then infect themselves with tapeworms. Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite that utilizes the hosts nutrition to survive, grow and breed. Leading to weight loss, poor haircoat, reduced gastrointestinal movement and function, and poor condition of the pet overtime. The only telltale sign of tapeworms, other than the changes in weight and haircoat, are often rice like segments you may see on their bedding or in their perianal area. These are living segments of a tapeworm that are ready to infect a new host.

How do Newborn Puppies and Kittens Get Parasites?

They receive these from their mother both through the bloodstream and via the milk they give their young. Routine deworming of the mother should happen daily from 45 days gestation, until 14 days after birth. The puppies and kittens whose mothers have undergone this treatment regimen, are born much larger and healthier.
After that, the pups or kittens should be routinely dewormed every 2 weeks starting at 4 weeks of age.

Diagnosis of Intestinal Parasite Disease

A fecal floatation is the best way to diagnosis hook, round and whipworms. Seeing the segments is the easiest way to diagnose tapeworms. The fecal floatation allows us to visualize the microscopic eggs and then determine based on the distinct look of them and volume of them, what type of worm and how severe the worm burden is. We then have an arsenal of several different dewormers that can target the specific culprit and remove the worms from your pet’s system.

Treatments and Prevention

Treatment is fairly economical and it can come in the form of an oral pill, liquid or injection or some combination thereof. In puppies and kittens, their full potential on growth and size can be significantly affected by having a lack of proper deworming, so prevention and treatment are key for having a healthy, full grown, robust pet.

Parvo Virus

The Importance of Vaccinations

Vaccination is the only way to protect your puppies and dogs against Parvo Virus. Fully vaccinated pets, cannot get Parvo Virus. It is important to understand a dog is not fully vaccinated, until they have received 2 DHPP vaccines after the age of 12 weeks, 3-4 weeks apart. Vaccinations should start when your pup is 6-8 weeks of age.

Keeping Your
Pet Safe

Quarantining your new puppy is the only way to keep them safe from this disease until they are fully vaccinated. This means no trips to the beach, no walking them outside, no taking them to friends, and only taking them outside the house to their appointments for vaccinations. In fact, unless you have a fully fenced in yard – where no unknown dogs can get, your puppy should not even be allowed in your own yard until they are fully vaccinated.

Parvo – Lurking in Our Environment

Parvo Virus is an extremely contagious virus, that is very common in Turks and Caicos. The virus is shed in the stool and oral secretions of dogs that have been exposed, and therefore it is in our environment throughout the country. It is a strong virus, and sunlight does not kill it – only powerful cleaning agents such as bleach and Trifectant are capable of destroying the virus on surfaces. Because it exists in our soil, dogs are often exposed just by being outside. We also find that there is often a spike in cases after rainfall. 

How the Disease Presents and Progresses

The first sign of the disease is often a lack of appetite, followed by diarrhea and or vomiting. The combination of the heat here and water loss from vomiting and diarrhea, leads to severe dehydration quite quickly. The virus then destroys the villi of the small intestine, which is where nutrients are absorbed, and also depletes the immune system’s ability to fight infection. As the disease progresses, which is lightning fast, the dogs are extremely painful and can develop bacterial sepsis. Even with intensive therapy, most unvaccinated pets will die within hours to days.

Treatment Options

Treatment is aimed at maintaining hydration, feeding the gut and managing nausea, pain and preventing sepsis. It is often only effective, if the patient is brought in at the first sign of illness.  Hospitalized patients are typically on intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics, antinausea and pain medications as they are not able to eat. In addition, many will get a feeding tube to deliver nutrition without them having to ingest it. Because these patients are so very contagious, they need to be kept in an isolation ward and handled very carefully.  Outpatient treatment is possible in some cases, but does not typically have the same outcome. 

Starting Off from the Best Place

Puppies that were born from mothers that were properly vaccinated and current on their DHPP vaccine start out on the right foot. Those that have started their vaccinations series before exposure, and have a properly vaccinated mother will have some immunity against Parvovirus and therefore have a fighting chance of surviving the disease. 

The puppies that come from unvaccinated or limited vaccination status mothers, and or have not been vaccinated themselves have a very poor chance of survival and often succumb to the disease within hours to days of symptoms starting. 

Planning Ahead for Healthy Pets

If you are planning to get a puppy, plan ahead and do your research! Ask the breeder to show you vaccination records on the mother and the pups, prepare an area in the house where the puppy is to stay and quarantine away from the outdoors until they are about 15-16 weeks old, budget for their preventative care to get them fully vaccinated and get them booked in for their first vaccinations at 6-8 weeks of age. And if you have questions, give us a call!

Planning Ahead for Healthy Pets

Prevention is fairly inexpensive and should be a planned cost when you choose to purchase a puppy. The initial puppy visit at Bark and Bliss is $105 and includes their first exam by a veterinarian, their first DHPP vaccine, intestinal parasite dewormer and heartworm prevention, as well as flea and tick prevention. Ongoing vaccine appointments are $27 per vaccine. The cost of treatment for Parvovirus is at a minimum $200-300 for mild cases, and $1200-$4000 for the intensive cases with no guarantee of survival.

The Importance of Skin Barrier Health

The Importance of Skin Barrier Health

Here in Turks and Caicos, a great deal of our canine and a few of the feline patients, struggle with various skin issues. Among them, external parasites such as fleas, ticks and mange; sunburn, superficial skin infections, allergies, scrapes and wounds and irritation secondary to plant and insect contact.

Damage to the
Skin Barrier

Damage to these layers causes loss of water, ability for various microscopic items to gain access to the deeper layers and cause detrimental inflammatory reactions, ongoing skin irritation, pain and infections, and lifelong allergies.

Skin Health

The skin is the largest organ in our dog or cat’s body. It has several layers to protect animals from the elements, irritants and allergens in the environment. It also prevents water loss and hosts a large number of beneficial bacteria on the surface layers, which have a mutually beneficial relationship with the skin.

Treatments to Support a Healthy Skin Barrier

Bark and Bliss carries a full arsenal of supplements that support a healthy skin barrier. These supplements include highly bioavailable fish oils, medicated shampoos and conditioning treatments, proper parasite controls, topical treatments that reduce inflammation and nutraceuticals that have a broad-based response to supporting skin health and rebuilding the skin barrier. 

Following an examination by our veterinarian, we can tailor the best plan forward for your pet and determine what treatments are ideal for your pet’s individual condition.

Repairing the Damage

Supporting the skin barrier takes time and commitment on the part of the owner/pet parent. It takes nearly 3 weeks for the full cycle of skin rejuvenation, and full repairing the damage to the skin can take 3-4 cycles. You will see improvement during this time, but it is important to understand the full response will take 9-12 weeks.

Chronic Skin Conditions versus Temporary Skin Conditions

Many skin issues are chronic and manageable conditions, versus curable. But there are some that are more temporary. Temporary skin conditions include sunburn, abrasions, and external parasites such as fleas and ticks.

Chronic concerns such as mange and allergies must be managed and are not curable, so require ongoing treatment to keep flare-ups at a minimum.

Diagnosis of Chronic Conditions

Chronic skin conditions often require diagnostics, such as skin scrapings, culture of infections, thyroid, food trials and or allergy testing to determine the best options to reduce symptoms and improve the comfort of your pet. Rest assured at Bark and Bliss we have all of these options available.

Treatments for Chronic Conditions

Skin disease is a constantly evolving issue, with new developments on the horizon at all times. Our team stays on top of the newest and safest options to keep our patients healthy, comfortable and functioning at their best.

  • Firstly, when your dog gets worked up give them a verbal cue that works to both catch their attention and provides them with something to do. That cue can be “sit,” “down,” or even “relax.” You just want to make sure you can use it consistently.
  • Secondly, use the word until your dog performs the behavior that you want, such as lying down, sitting at your feet, or even just stopping what they are doing and looking at you. You may have to show them what to do the first few times until they get the hang of it.