All systems are go in the sunshine

The first appearance of sunshine in what seems like months has brought a flurry of activity on building sites large and small.

At the top of Whorral Bank, exterior works on our new hospital are almost complete and the interior fit-out is progressing extremely well.

Meanwhile, work is well under way on our new town-centre clinic opposite the present Staithes Lane surgery. Just next door, the enormous building site that surrounds our (still very much open!) Morpeth practice is busier than ever. The giant steel frame is growing rapidly, appearing to double in size every day.

Our first floor offices at Morpeth afford an excellent view of the new supermarket site. Our office staff are keeping a close eye on proceedings, and were keen to report that the sun has brought on a rapid shedding of builders’ shirts.

It has been noted though that despite naked torsos being lightly covered by the ubiquitous high-visibility vest, skins have been turning a distinct shade of lobster during the past week.

And this brings me to the main subject of this week’s column. Our pets can suffer from the detrimental effects of the sun in just the same way as us.

Sunburn in cats is a very common problem at this time of year. Cats are even better sun worshippers than people and most of them can lie outside all day without burning or damaging their skin.

They are, after all, mostly furry little chaps but pink noses, eyelids and thinly covered ears especially in white cats are very susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. Initially, the damage to the skin will show as a pink area with perhaps some scaling and hair loss.

However, continued exposure can lead to more serious problems such as skin cancer. Just like sunburn in people, all of this can be very easily prevented in cats with the application of a sun block of factor 15 or more.

Sunburn and its long-term effects can also affect very short-coated white dogs such as Staffordshire bull terriers and white boxers.

Unlike cats though, dogs tolerate the heat very badly.

I think that most people are familiar with the RSPCA’s ‘Dogs die in hot cars’ campaign but often don’t realise that leaving a dog in the conservatory, caravan or even in a garden without shade can be just as disastrous. All dogs will suffer, but very old, very young, short-nosed, long-haired, overweight or heavily-muscled dogs are even more at risk.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can result in coma or even death. If you suspect that your dog is suffering, you should move them to a cool place before calling your vet for advice immediately.

The sun also brings some common parasites out to play. Fleas are a problem all year round but are far more active in the summer and will happily enter the cleanest of houses.

A damp start to the spring means ticks are likely to be more of a problem this year than most. Many clients are also asking us about lungworm in dogs. This is a relatively new parasite to the UK that is thought to be transmitted by slugs and snails.

Unlike in the south of England, lungworm is not thought to be prevalent in the North East and there have only been a few reported cases.

Fortunately the vast majority of pet parasites, including lungworm, can easily be prevented with appropriate treatments from your vet.

As ever, if you have any questions or concerns relating to these or any pet health matters, feel free to call us. Enjoy the sun (safely!) while it lasts.

Chris Green,

Director and Senior Vet