How to Recognize Skin Cancer in Cats

As summer is in full swing, both humans and animals need to protect themselves from the harmful UV rays of the sun. While you can cover yourself and apply the costliest sunscreen lotion to protect yourself from UV rays, what about the pets in your life? If you have a pet cat in your home, are you sure about how you should protect her from the same?

Much more than cat parents actually realize, skin cancer among cats is extremely common, even though you may say that your cat remains indoors. To know more on skin cancer among cats, you’ve clicked on the right post. Scroll down to read more.

Skin cancer among cats – What are the potential causes?

Just as it happens among humans, the most common cause of skin cancer among pets, especially cats is excessive exposure to sun rays. For all those who always keep your kitten indoor, you needn’t rejoice as you are not totally out of the risk. Indoor cats that often lie down in small patches of sunlight and window sills can even be exposed to the harmful UV rays of the sun.

You may suddenly find sunburn on your cat or red skin appearing here and there or hair loss around the temples, the outer tips of the eyelids, ears, nose, lips and belly. Apart from the sunlight, there are few other less common causes of skin cancer among cats. They include physical trauma and serious burns. There are few studies that show that compulsive licking of specific areas can lead to skin damage and can boost chances of skin cancer.

Which cats are more susceptible to skin cancer?

Any kitten that has too much of exposure to sunrays is always at the risk of developing skin cancer. Nevertheless, the following breeds and types of cats are more likely to get the fatal disease:

  • Hairless cat breeds like Sphynx
  • Cats with thin or short coats
  • Cats with light or white-colored fur
  • Older cats
  • Cats living in hilly areas

How does sunburn look like on cats?

Sunburn usually appears on cats in the form of hair loss or red skin. The most common areas that may be affected are the belly, nose, tips of ears, inside legs, the skin near the lips and eyes and also those areas where skin pigmentation is low.

Different types of skin cancer among cats

Now that you know that skin cancer occurs among cats due to excessive exposure to sunlight, you should know the different types of cancers that may occur to them. Here are the 3 basic types:

#1: Malignant Melanoma

This is the type of cancer that occurs in the pigment-producing cells of the skin, known as melanocytes. It is usually found in areas of mucous membranes like nose and mouth and in rare cases, it can be found on the skin with fur. This kind of cancer spreads really fast to lymph nodes and to other organs. Among humans, the exposure to sunrays is the main cause of this disease but the trigger is not clear among pets.

#2: Mast cell tumors

This kind of cancer is found within the mast cells of a cat’s immune system and it can manifest in the form of a lump either on the skin or under the skin. Inflammation, genetics and irritation are usually linked to the potential causes of the disease. Siamese cats are usually high risk for developing this type of cancer.

#3: Squamous cell carcinoma

This specific type of cancer is caused due to over-exposure to the sun. When the disease starts, it can begin with what you call a solar dermatitis. Dermatitis is where crusty-looking, red areas appear near the tips of the ears. These keep coming and going and hence they can be mistaken for a small abrasion. Eventually, this progresses to become cancerous, that requires surgery or therapies where the cat has to undergo radiation therapy. Squamous cell carcinoma may even occur on areas like nose, eyelids or face where it becomes a challenge to limit the spread.

Signs and symptoms of skin cancer among cats

Watch out for the following signs of skin cancer among cats, especially in the areas where you noticed sudden hair loss or reddening of skin.

  • Crusty, small and scabby sores
  • Lesions with hardened and irregular borders
  • Lesions which are ulcerated and that ooze out blood or fluid
  • Any unusual lumps or bumps in the body

In case of squamous carcinoma of the mouth, you should always be looking forward for the following signs:

  • Drooling or more-than-normal salivation
  • Weight loss
  • Inappetance
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling of the lower or upper jaw

Treating and diagnosing skin cancer among cats

In case you notice any of the above listed symptoms, you’re supposed to instantly make an appointment with the vet. Your vet will prescribe topical medicines to treat the sores of the cat.

Though majority of the bumps and lumps found on cats are seen to be benign, it is always good to be cautious rather than being negligent. Your vet will do a biopsy to make sure whether or not there is any cancer involved. In case the lump is cancerous, it has to be removed surgically along with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or cryotherapy. Through X-rays, it can be determined whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Prevent skin cancer with cat sunscreen

Experts always recommend controlling the exposure of your kitten to direct sunlight. You may also invest in window shades or glass reflectors that could block UV rays. Consider applying sunscreen if you still want your cat to go out in the sun. Make sure the sunscreen has the qualities of being baby-friendly, non-staining, fragrance-free and includes ingestion warning. Avoid sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide, octisalate or other salicylates.

Skin cancer among cats is much more important than you may think. However, when you’re able to identify the early symptoms, you can help the cat cure the disease. Use all the prevention tips listed above to have a healthy kitten.

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