Protecting your cat from skin cancer
Our cats can be susceptible to environmentally caused cancers, including skin cancers linked to exposures by the sun. Any cat that spends a lot of time outdoors (or even on warm windowsills) may be at higher risk at developing sun-induced cancers, but the condition can occur more in cats of certain colours and coats.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer in pets will often start subtly, showing more symptoms and increase in seriousness as it develops. Not all skin cancer is caused by the sun as some cats can also be prone to tumours because of certain genetic factors.
What are the symptoms of skin cancer?
Skin cancer can take different forms in our pets and because the condition starts subtly it’s important to examine your cat regularly for the signs or any changes to their skin. The signs to look out for include:
- Ulcers or lesions
- Redness or red patches of skin
- Dry and flaky skin or patches
- Wart lumps of bumps
- Open wounds with no cause
- Swelling in isolated areas
Regularly grooming or stroking your cat, even in the places they might not like or are not used to being touched, provides you with the opportunity to check for any unusual lumps or bumps.
How is skin cancer diagnosed?
If you have noticed anything unusual on your cat’s skin, it’s important to record any changes or growth to help provide any initial clues to the severity of the condition. Otherwise, the diagnosis will begin during an appointment and if they suspect a lump is cancerous, your vet will extract cells from it so that they can be examined.
X-rays can be taken, too, to ensure the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.
How is skin cancer in cats treated?
Often, surgery is required to remove the cancer, with or without chemotherapy. Sometimes, the outside of a cat’s ears has to be removed to eliminate the cancer if the area is affected.
Are any cat breeds prone to cancer?
Cats with light or white fur and those with short and thin coat can be particularly prone to developing skin cancer.
How do you prevent skin cancer in cats?
As other factors play a part in skin cancer it’s only possible to minimise your pet’s risk of environmentally caused tumours, or sun-related skin cancer.
Keep them indoors
Keep your cat indoors when it’s really sunny, especially during the warmest hours of the day. Then, while inside, don’t let them snooze on the windowsills as this can be just as dangerous. If your cat has an outdoor space, make sure there is plenty of shade for them to enjoy and to hide from the sun’s harmful rays.
Use sunscreen for protection
Use sunblock that’s specifically formulated for pets, as these will be the safest and most effective type to use on your cat’s skin. Make sure to keep topping up your application as sun cream can often be removed as a cat groom themselves.
Most cats that are treated go on to live normal lives without any problems related to the condition, but the recovery does depend on the type of cancer and its treatment. It’s important to remember that prevention is always better than the cure, so taking precautions to keep your cat safe in the sun can help reduce the risk of sun-induced cancers.
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