Signs Of Skin Cancer In A Cat: Essential Guide For Cat Parents

skin cancer in a cat

If you’re a pet parent, knowing the signs of skin cancer in a cat or dog is important. In this post we’ll be focusing on signs of skin cancer in a cat including what to look for, as well as causes and treatments. Though cats often respond well to treatment, it’s vital to pick up signs in the early stages.

If you’re a blue eyed blonde with fair skin, your chances of skin cancer are higher. Well, the same goes for white or albino cats. If you have a white cat you need to pay close attention and take notes. Knowing what to look for could save her life.

Even if you have a dark hair cat it’s still important to know all about skin cancer. Though most cats with thick, dense fur are protected, you should still check your kitty’s skin as part of a regular grooming routine.

What are the signs of skin cancer in a cat?

what are the signs of skin cancer in a cat

Typical signs of skin cancer in cats aren’t unlike those seen in humans. (Without the fur of course!! ) Crusty looking sores that won’t heal, or unusual spots that change in shape or colour. Also small lumps that grow in size. These are often found on the nose, ears, or eyelids.

Skin cancer in cats can show itself in several forms. The sooner it’s diagnosed and treated, the greater chance of a full recovery. As all types of cancer including skin cancer are more common in older animals, regular checks are important. Annual examinations at the veterinary surgery can save a lot of heartache and expense.

What types of skin cancer are there?

They’re a few different types of skin cancer in cats, some of which can be avoided by keeping your kitty out of strong sunlight. As previously mentioned, white cats have the highest incidence of skin cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma

This type of skin cancer is found on the surface of the skin, and can often appear as an area of white plaque, or a raised bump. If you notice bleeding in the centre of the lump you must make an urgent appointment. Crusty, white plaque can also be a sign of dermatitis in cats, but it’s still best to get it looked at if you’re worried.

Squamous cell carcinoma is fast growing, with any delay in treatment dangerous. If ignored, this type of skin cancer can quickly spread to other areas of the body. In some cases multiple crusty sores are diagnosed as Bowen’s disease. You’d normally find them on the head and neck as well as legs. This type of skin cancer is mostly found in cats over ten years old and triggered by papillomavirus.

Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of white blood cell cancer that originates in the lymph nodes. The most common blood cancer in cats is lymphoma accounting for 90% of cases. It also accounts for around 35% of tumours. Any symptoms such as loss of appetite, problems breathing, weight loss, or vomiting must be reported to your vet.

The cause of lymphoma is believed to be to be exposure to feline leukemia. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to keep up with your cat’s vaccinations. If your kitty goes outside and comes into contact with other cats you need to protect her. Remember, not all cats will be vaccinated against diseases, and many neighborhoods have colonies of ferals.

Bone cancer

Thankfully, bone cancer in cats is quite rare, but does seem to be more common in larger breeds. If you have a senior large breed cat you may easily mistake some symptoms for arthritis, or general aging. Lameness, loss of energy, and swelling are typically found in cats with bone cancer. Sadly, this is an aggressive form of the disease, so immediate treatment is essential. In many cases amputation of a limb is needed to save a cat’s life. Depending on the age and general health of your cat, euthanasia may be the kindest option.

Mast cell tumours in cats

Mast cells are white blood cells, and sometimes clump together forming tumours. About 20% of skin tumours in cats are mast cells, and of those, 90% are benign. Most of these tumours are found in the spleen of elderly cats. If your kitty develops a mast cell tumour, it can be treated. With only around 10% diagnosed as malignant, they’re rarely cancerous.

Common treatments for skin cancer in cats

If your cat has been diagnosed with skin cancer don’t panic. As long as it’s caught in the early stages your cat has a very good chance of a full recovery. Your vet will recommend a treatment plan depending on the type of skin cancer.

Skin cancer on ear tips is diagnosed either using fine needle aspiration or a biopsy. As previously mentioned this is a common form of cancer in white cats. Removal of ear flaps may sound drastic, but it could save your cat’s life. The only disability your furry friend will experience is a slight loss of hearing.

Your cat’s ear flaps funnel sound into her ear canal. She may also find it harder to tune into very faint sounds. A cat’s ear flaps are like highly sophisticated satellite dishes. Being able to swivel them 180 degrees allows
felines to pick up the faintest of sounds.

Treatment for squamous cell skin cancer in a cat

Depending on the size of the lump and whether or not it’s spread, is dependant on the course of treatment. A small tumour that hasn’t spread is often removed by cyrosurgery. This is a minimally invasive technique that involves freezing the tumour to destroy it as well as any surrounding cancer cells.

For larger skin tumours that have spread to other organs surgery is the only option. In some cases very large areas of skin will be removed. In this instance, a skin graft will be recommended by your vet. It’s vital that all traces of cancer are destroyed, and your cat’s wellbeing is his number one priority.

If your vet is unable to remove the tumour completely, or if it’s a very large size, he may suggest radiotherapy, or chemotherapy. Smaller doses are given compared to humans, and cats normally respond well. Your kitty may suffer side effects including nausea and lethargy. These will disappear though as soon as treatment is finished.

Can skin cancer in a cat kill

Fortunately, with modern medicine and advances in surgery, most survive. Even so, it can kill if treatment is delayed. One of the best ways to insure your kitty never has to suffer is by taking out pet insurance. You can get some very good deals by shopping around, and many allow payment in installments.

Skin cancer, like all cancers is more common in elderly pets. Treating a senior can be harder as there’s a greater risk from anesthesia. In many cases of advanced cancer, palliative care is the only option. Keeping your kitty comfortable and free from pain can be achieved with morphine or other drugs. Your vet should work closely with you on this, and advise when it’s time to say goodbye.

How to protect your cat from skin cancer

If your cat is pure white keep her indoors during the hottest part of the day. Many veterinarians recommend using a suncream on the tips of ears and nose.

As you know, trying to keep your kitty still while applying any lotion or cream is nearly impossible! However, it’s certainly worth a try. Only ever use creams or lotions formulated for pets. There are a few I recommend including Dermoscent sun free. If this isn’t available in your country, ask your vet. Sometimes veterinary clinics stock up on these products as summer approaches.

Keeping your cat’s immune system strong can help prevent many illnesses including cancer. Make sure you give your kitty a healthy diet. Avoid cheap, low grade brands, and if possible, include a supplement. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but investing in a fish oil supplement may offer protection against cancer and heart disease. Essential fatty acids such as omega3, not only boost the immune system, but help protect joints as well.

Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogs & Cats is one that I recommend. I give it to my cat and he licks the bowl clean! You may not notice any outward signs for a few months, but a glossy coat and healthy skin are just some of the many benefits.

There’s nothing you can do to prevent skin cancer in a cat if it’s inherited. Some breeds of cat including siamese, persians and bengals have a slightly increased risk of the disease.

Understanding skin cancer in a cat

Hopefully, this post has helped you understand a bit about skin cancer in cats and what to look for. We’ve covered some common signs as well as different types of skin cancer. Prevention is better than cure, and though there’s no way to prevent some cancers, we looked at a few ways you can lower the risk.

Treatments for skin cancer have come a long way over the past few years, with modern veterinary clinics offering cutting edge treatments for pets.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and found the information useful please share. Also, feel free to comment below with any questions or experiences you’d like to share.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)
Kathy

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6 comments

  1. You’ve done a wonderful job with this article!
    So much useful and in-depth information, I’m sure all of the people who have cats will appreciate it.
    I’m more of a dog lover myself, but my best friend has a cat.
    I’m sending your post to her, it will help her to take even better care of her pet.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi! I like your cover photo by the way. The cat looks so cute!
    This is an interesting read. Sometimes it’s surprising to know that animals can get diseases
    or can be sick as humans.

    I’m not a cat person, I’m scared of them to be honest.
    But, your post made me change my feelings towards cats.
    Thanks.

  3. Hey Kathy,

    This is an interesting read and an important one for all cat owners like me! I am a physician and I know how frustrating to see such problems. Our cats need an attention and to take care of them all the time. Noticing signs of cancer is important to be able to diagnose it as early as possible and start the treatment fast to prevent it from spreading elsewhere. Thank you for this post!

    1. Thank you:) Yes, finding signs of cancer in a cat and taking immediate action saves lives. Our pets are our fur babies and we have a duty of care to keep them safe and well:)

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