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Cat Skin Cancer: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Cat skin cancer is a serious health concern affecting indoor and outdoor cats. While the condition can be alarming, understanding the signs, symptoms, and treatment options can help pet owners provide the best care for their feline companions. In this blog post, our vets in Turlock discuss what cat skin cancer looks like, its symptoms, the risks for indoor cats, life expectancy, and available treatment options.

What is cat skin cancer?

Whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, both are at risk of developing skin cancer, particularly if they spend a lot of time in the sun or near a window exposed to sunlight. Skin cancer in cats can manifest as bumps, lumps, lesions, rashes, ulcers, or scabs, which may appear red, black, pink, brown, or grey. As a cat owner,

it's important to check your cat's skin for unusual growths regularly. If you notice anything unusual, contact your vet right away. While most skin growths on cats are harmless, early detection of cancerous growths and prompt treatment offer the best chance for a full recovery for your cat.

There are also different types of skin cancers in cats, which include:

  • Basal cell tumors
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Mast cell cancer
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

Causes of Cat Skin Cancer

The primary cause of skin cancer in cats is sun exposure, whether they spend time outside in the summer or nap inside near a sunny window at home. Cats with thin or light-colored fur, as well as those who have had previous sunburns, are at higher risk of developing skin cancer.

Other less common causes of cat skin cancer are excessive licking of certain areas on the skin, serious burns, and physical trauma.

Signs & Symptoms of Skin Cancer in Cats

Identifying the signs and symptoms of skin cancer in cats is vital for early intervention. Here are some key indicators to watch for:

  • Lumps and Bumps: Unusual growths or bumps on the skin that do not resolve over time.
  • Sores that Don’t Heal: Persistent sores or ulcers that do not heal with standard treatment.
  • Changes in Skin Color: Discoloration or darkening of the skin, especially in areas exposed to sunlight.
  • Bleeding or Oozing: Lesions that bleed or ooze without any apparent cause.
  • Itching and Irritation: Excessive scratching or grooming of specific areas, indicating discomfort.

What does cat skin cancer look like?

Skin cancer can manifest in various forms in cats. Typically, it appears as irregularly shaped, raised lesions or lumps that can be red, black, or brown and might bleed or ooze. You can find numerous examples of how these symptoms manifest by searching online for "cat skin cancer pictures" for a visual reference.

Can indoor cats get skin cancer?

Yes, indoor cats can develop skin cancer, although the risk is generally higher for outdoor cats due to increased sun exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, other factors such as genetics, age, and exposure to toxins can also contribute to the development of skin cancer in indoor cats.

Diagnosing Your Cat's Skin Cancer

If your vet suspects your cat may have skin cancer, they may begin the diagnostic process by conducting a physical examination and a fine needle aspiration or biopsy. These procedures help to identify the specific type and form of cancer your cat may have. Sometimes, your oncological vet may need to perform a surgical biopsy to make an official diagnosis. Additionally, your vet may conduct other tests, such as X-rays or analysis of fluids taken from your pet's lymph nodes, to gather more information.

How long can a cat live with skin cancer?

The life expectancy of a cat with skin cancer varies widely depending on several factors:

  • Type of Cancer: Some cancers are more aggressive than others.
  • Stage at Diagnosis: Early detection typically leads to a better prognosis.
  • Overall Health: Cats in good health may respond better to treatment.
  • With prompt and effective treatment, cats can live several months to years after a skin cancer diagnosis. Without treatment, the prognosis is generally poorer.

Treatment Options and Expectations

Most skin cancers in cats can be treated with a positive prognosis. The treatments and outcomes depend on the type of skin cancer, its severity, and location. Some sores can be treated before they turn cancerous with topical medication.

Other cases will require surgery to remove the cancer and infected tissues, which also helps prevent regrowth. If the cancer has spread or become too large to remove surgically, chemotherapy or radiation may be needed.

Cats undergoing chemotherapy may experience a lack of appetite and weight loss, but medications can help alleviate any side effects. In many cases, cats can completely recover and live healthy lives, but cancer may return in some situations.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat develops a new lump or bump on its skin, contact our veterinarians in Turlock immediately.

New Patients Welcome

Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Turlock companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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