Squamous cell carcinoma in cats: symptoms, treatment and prevention


The cat is exposed to the risk of developing different types of cancer throughout its life, like many other animals. Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer more commonly diagnosed in hairless cats or those white coat, but the others are not protected. Let’s take stock of this malignant skin tumor due to sunburn, one of the most common in cats.

Squamous cell carcinoma: symptoms

This form of skin cancer which is located at the level of the epidermis grows rapidly and can be particularly invasive. It is therefore a pathology that must be taken care of without delay by a veterinarian, even if its cure is not guaranteed. Squamous cell carcinoma is likely to metastasize.

However, it is possible to cure the cat if he is treated on time, that is, before the ulcers turn cancerous. The main symptoms that may lead to a suspicion of squamous cell carcinoma are:

  • Ulcerations on the cat’s skin with hair loss in the affected areas,
  • A crust that lasts,
  • One or more wounds that do not heal even after several months,
  • A change in skin color …

It is strongly recommended to consult the veterinarian upon discovery of at least one of these manifestations.

Squamous cell carcinoma: causes

All cats, (but even more so those with white hair as well as hairless cats), are very sensitive to UV damage. So this is not just a problem in humans. Indeed, fur does not protect small felines 100%. The UV-B are particularly involved in the occurrence of certain pathologies, such as squamous cell carcinoma. The lesions are mainly localized:

  • On areas of the body where the coat is thinner or thinner,
  • On the truffle,
  • On the ears.

One might be tempted to believe that only cats that spend a lot of time outdoors are at risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. However, we know today that a cat says apartment loving lounging very close to a bay window is also exposed to this risk because UV-B is unfortunately not filtered by the glazing. The danger is therefore all the more important as the cat has a risk phenotype.

Squamous cell carcinoma: diagnosis and treatment

The veterinarian is looking for a first-line precancerous condition through a microscope. This allows him to analyze a skin sample taken from the animal. It is therefore a question of being able to diagnose a solar keratosis or actinic keratosis. This examination is very important because it allows the veterinarian to resolve any possible ambiguity. Indeed, he must first ensure that the cat does not present another disease such as, for example, a fungal disease or even lupus …

Once the pre-cancerous state is confirmed, a treatment protocol must be put in place without delay. The veterinarian preferably opts for surgery to limit the risk of developing a malignant tumor. There are two surgical solutions, namely:

  • Cryosurgery, also called cryoablation. It consists of the destruction of the cancerous tumor by extreme cold (argon, liquid nitrogen, etc.).
  • Thetherapeutic otectomy, particularly well adapted to the squamous cell carcinoma which has developed in the ears of the cat. The operation medically justified is therefore in this specific case completely legal. It consists of the excision of the pinna of the ear (or both ears if they are both affected).
  • The invasive surgery also called aggressive surgery, followed by sessions of chemotherapy, when assessment of extension was found to be positive. But the vital prognosis of the cat can be engaged due to the presence of metastases.

In some cases, the vet may not be able to opt for the surgery. In this case, he prescribes a treatment which may be based on:

  • Ofantibiotics in case of infection,
  • Ofantiseptics if the cat has a secondary infection,
  • Of corticosteroids if there is inflammation.

At the same time, the animal must imperatively be protected from the sun’s rays first of all by not going out until early morning or late evening. In addition, the master must pose on his glazing of UVB filters. Finally, it is necessary that the animal is also protected thanks to a sunscreen suitable for cats which must be renewed very frequently because the little feline eliminates it by licking itself. It is necessary to coat his ears and his muzzle in particular.

Protection against the harmful effects of UV rays in general and UV-B rays in particular remains the only means of preventing squamous cell carcinoma in cats.