Skin cancer is a well-known problem among people, but surprisingly, cats can also develop this type of cancer. While most of your cat's body is covered in fur, hairless areas like the nose, lips or eyelids are susceptible to damage from the sun's harmful rays. Here are three things cat owners need to know about skin cancer.
What are the signs of skin cancer?
The signs of skin cancer in cats are similar to the signs in humans. Your cat may develop an unusual bump or mass on their skin. They may also develop a sore that doesn't heal as expected. When you're petting your cat, check their skin for any changes. If you notice any potential problems, bring them to your vet's attention right away. Your vet can take a biopsy of the tissue to see if it's skin cancer.
Can skin cancer be treated?
The usual treatment for cats with skin cancer is surgery. This may be performed by your regular veterinarian or by a veterinary oncologist. They will remove the cancerous lesion as well as a margin of healthy tissue from all sides of the cancer.
Other treatments can also be used, if necessary. Cryotherapy can be used to kill the cancer cells by freezing them. Topical chemotherapy can also be used. Topical chemotherapy involves applying medicated creams to the lesions to destroy the cancer cells. Your cat may need these treatments if their cancer can't be easily operated on; for example if it's on their eyelid.
Cats can also undergo radiation therapy if other treatments don't work. This treatment is also used for people with cancer, and it involves targeting your cat's cancer cells with radiation to destroy them.
How can you prevent skin cancer?
While skin cancer can be treated, you should take steps to prevent it. To keep your cat safe, you need to make sure they aren't exposed to too much sun. Outdoor cats should be kept indoors during the middle of the day when the sun is the strongest. You can also build an enclosed catio—a cat patio—to let your cat go outdoors without getting sunburned.
For light-colored cats who have a higher risk of getting sunburned, feline sunscreen is available. Avoid putting sunscreen meant for human use on your cat as this can irritate their skin. Feline sunscreen only needs to be applied to areas with no fur or with thin fur like your cat's nose and ears.
If you think your cat has skin cancer, take them to a veterinarian, such as one from East Valley Animal Clinic, right away.