If you own an all-white cat, then you know that nothing is more beautiful than staring into their piercing green or blue eyes! But did you know that these and other light-colored kitties are at a higher risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma? If you are unsure what that is, the team here at Quinebaug Valley Veterinary Hospital has answered some questions about this common cancer of the skin and mouth in cats.
What are the signs of squamous cell carcinoma in cats?
Squamous cell carcinomas initially appear as small sores that do not heal. As they grow, they often become raised, irregular lumps that may or may not have open sores. A single tumor is most common, but multiple tumors can develop, especially in sun-damaged areas.
Squamous cell carcinomas are usually highly invasive to the surrounding tissues and bones, and can metastasize to other body parts. Because they are so invasive, early detection is critical for a good prognosis.
What causes squamous cell carcinoma in cats?
Light-colored cats have less protection against harsh UV rays, and are most commonly affected with squamous cell carcinoma. White cats who sit in sunny window sills all day, with prolonged exposure to sunlight, are most at risk. The tumors often appear on areas where the cat’s fur offers little protection, such as the ears, eye ridges, eyelids, nose, and lips.
How is squamous cell carcinoma in cats treated?
Surgical removal of squamous cell carcinomas provides the best prognosis. However, other options, including topical creams that modify the immune system, laser therapy, cryotherapy, topical chemotherapy, and radiation treatment are available.
How can I prevent squamous cell carcinoma in my cat?
To reduce your white cat’s risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, limit UV radiation. Use ultraviolet window screens, apply sunscreen, and keep your cat indoors during peak sunlight hours. Keep in mind that cats can be highly sensitive to the ingredients in human sunscreen products, so choose a formula that is labeled pet-safe.
If your light-colored feline has developed an unusual sore that is not healing, contact us to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you determine the cause of this mystery spot.