While we humans know that skin cancer can develop when we spend too much time in the sun, cats can also get skin cancer for the very same reason. While it seems that cats, with their thick fur and most of their time being spent indoors, wouldn’t get skin cancer, this is not the case.
In fact, skin cancer is one of the more common types of cancer that cats can develop. Light colored and white cats are more prone to skin cancer as well as older cats. Outdoor cats who spend a lot of time in the sun can get skin cancer twice as often as indoor cats.
Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer in felines will occur as a result of different kinds of tumors or even the overgrowth of skin cells.
The different tumors that might occur are the following:
Epithelial – These tumors will form on your cat’s skin or in the hair follicles.
Melanomas – These tumors start in the pigment of the skin.
Mesenchymal - These tumors occur in the cells of the skin such as nerves, tissues and fat.
Squamous Cell – This kind of tumor often occurs around the openings of the cats’ body that are exposed to the sun.
Causes of Skin Cancer
Any cat can develop skin cancer and the exact cause is not known.
Of course, cats that are more exposed to the sun might develop skin cancer, as well as exposure to environmental toxins, cigarette smoke and even hereditary factors.
Some studies show that a cat’s compulsive licking of certain areas can damage the skin and increase the chance of skin cancer.
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your cat if you see any of the symptoms.
Since most cats have thick fur coats, it can be hard to see any of the signs of skin cancer.
Below are some things you can look out for:
1. Sores – If your cat has a sore on his or her body that doesn’t go away, this can be a symptom of skin cancer.
2. Growths – Any tumor or growth on your cat’s body should be looked at by your vet immediately.
3. Loss of Hair - Bowen’s disease is an early type of skin cancer that makes your cat’s skin change color and develop an ulcer around it as well as a sore which causes your cat’s fur to fall out.
If your cat shows any of the above symptoms, make sure to take your cat to the vet immediately.
Skin cancer, fortunately, has a higher rate of recovery than most cancers when caught in the early stages.
Your vet will first want to find out if the tumor that your cat has developed is malignant. This is usually performed through a biopsy where your vet removes a portion of the tumor and examine it under the microscope.
Other tests such as your cat’s blood count, a urinalysis as well as a chemistry panel might be taken.
If the skin cancer is found early enough before the cancerous cells have had a chance to spread, they're a few options of treatment that tend to have a good prognosis.
If the tumor hasn’t spread, your vet will remove the tumor as well as some tissue around it.
If the tumor can’t be removed, your vet will try radiation therapy in an attempt to destroy the cancer cells as well shrink the tumor.
If the tumor is very small, your vet might try to freeze it off.
Chemotherapy might also be given to your cat which usually comes in the form of different drugs or medication to fight off the tumor and cancer.
There are sometimes side effects with chemotherapy like weight loss or lack of appetite, but your vet will prescribe medication to lessen the effects.
The prognosis for recovery is very good for your cat but, of course, depends on the severity of the skin cancer.
Your vet will want you to continue to follow up with further visits to make sure that the skin cancer does not flair up again.
The best way to make sure that your cat doesn’t develop skin cancer it to monitor your cat’s skin and overall condition. If possible, try to limit the amount of exposure your cat has to the sun, particularly during the summer. You can simply close the blinds and just let a little sun inside.
Skin cancer can not only be dangerous for your cat, but very expensive to treat. Pet insurance can help save you money on the medical bills associated with the disease as well as the treatment.
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