Is What They Say About White Cats True?
And what do they say about white cats? That they’re more susceptible to feline skin cancer. And yes, it’s true!You probably didn’t realize it, but your cat’s skin is the biggest organ in his body. And his skin is the most common place for cancer to develop, especially if he’s white.According to Dr. Ruthanne Chun, assistant professor and oncology researcher at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, cats and dogs develop skin cancer, just like people do. She says that too much sun is the culprit, especially among white cats and dogs.
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“Just like fair-skinned people are more likely to have problems with skin cancer, white dogs and cats are more prone to skin cancers, especially on the areas of their body that are thinly haired, such as the belly on dogs, and the ear tips and around the eyes on cats,” Chun said.
But not all feline skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. Chun added that viruses, hormones, genetics, vaccines and burns are also associated with skin cancer. Those risk factors are not limited to white cats.
“In cats, fibrosarcoma can be caused by vaccination against rabies or the feline leukemia virus,” Chun said.
Symptoms Of Feline Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is relatively easy to notice, compared to other cancers, because the signs are easily visible.
- Tumors or lumps under the skin.
- Blemishes, scaly areas or change in color. Squamous cell cancer is characterized by redness of the area and a crusty skin.
- Abnormal behaviors like scratching or chewing the affected area.
- Color changes and irregular areas in your cat’s eyelids, lips and the inside of her mouth.
Grooming with a fine comb, along with lots of good petting, helps to find any abnormalities right away.
How Can You Prevent Skin Cancer In Your Cat?
Dr. Chun mentioned several ways cat owners can prevent skin cancer. “White cats and cats with white on their face should not be allowed outdoors during sunny days” Chun said.
If it’s not possible to keep your white kitty out of the sun, you can use SPF 50 sunscreen on her nose, and the inside and outside of her ears. Try to avoid letting her out at mid-day, when the sun is strongest.
Preventing skin cancers associated with vaccination in cats is approached a bit differently because vaccination against rabies is unavoidable, Chun said.
“The vaccine should be given in the right rear leg to ensure that if a tumor does arise it can be easily removed surgically,” Chun said. “Studies have clearly shown that if all the vaccines are given over the neck or back or between the shoulder blades, a tumor is more likely to develop and it is more likely to be fatal to the animal because it is harder to remove.”
Many vets are now recommending that the rabies vaccine be given every three years, instead of yearly, to reduce the risk of vaccine-associated sarcoma. Check the laws in your state, as some states still require yearly rabies vaccinations.
How Is Skin Cancer In Cats Treated?
If your cat is diagnosed with skin cancer, surgical removal of the tumor is the most common treatment. Radiation therapy, cryotherapy (freezing the tumor), and chemotherapy are treatments also used by many vets.
Holistic treatments provide your cat with what her body needs to heal from within. Even if the cancer can’t be cured, holistic options do offer a better quality of life for your pet. If you choose to go this route, try to find a holistic veterinarian by contacting the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
Diet and nutrition is very important. Digestive enzymes will help your cat’s digestive system to break down and absorb the nutrients in her food more easily.
You’ll also want to work on strengthening your cat’s immune system. Pet Alive C-Caps, which contain astragalus, milk thistle and other tonic herbs, can help with this.
Homeopathy can be very helpful in treating cancer. You’ll need to work with a vet who is trained in using homeopathic remedies. You can find one through the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
Acupuncture can help with pain relief, as well as stimulating your cat’s immune system. For a list of practitioners in your area, visit the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, or the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
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