Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin in Cats

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that primarily affects the skin of dogs and cats. Has your cat or dog been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma? Or has your vet mentioned that this could be a possibility for your pet? Are you concerned about what this could mean and how well your furry friend may be able to recover from this condition?

In the article below, you’ll find a quick rundown of the basic information you need to know about squamous cell carcinoma in cats. 

squamous cell carcinoma cats

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of cancer that can affect a pet’s skin. It focuses on the top, or outer layer, of the skin which is also called the squamous layer. These lesions or tumors can develop anywhere, but are more common in areas that have less hair and pigment and that receive the most exposure to ultraviolet rays. These areas may include ear tips, eyelids, nose and lips.

This type of cancer usually affects only one site on a cat’s body. However, in very severe instances, cats may suffer from multiple tumors on the skin (Bowen’s carcinoma). Some cats may also suffer from metastatic cancer as a result of squamous cell carcinomas, although this is not very common.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats?

Visible tumors and lesions on the cat’s skin are the most common symptoms of this condition.

SCC appears as either red or crusted and/or ulcerated abnormalities of the skin. Tumors may also appear scabbed and rough. Some tumors may cause cats to lose their sense of smell or can cause lameness, depending on where they are located.

What Causes Cats to Develop This Type of Cancer?

Some cats may develop squamous cell carcinomas more often if they are allowed to spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun. However, even some fully indoor cats can develop this condition. It is partially hereditary and may also have to do with exposure to papilloma virus as a kitten.

Cats who have white fur or very light fur are more prone to developing squamous cell carcinomas than dark cats. Additionally, Persian and Siamese cats are less likely to suffer from squamous cell carcinoma than other breeds.

How Will a Vet Diagnose Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat?

A fine needle aspirate and cytology can be used to diagnose SCC.  This method allows the veterinarian to remove a sample of cells from the tumor and check them closely to determine whether or not they are cancerous. A completely surgical biopsy may be performed in instances when fine needle aspiration does not yield a diagnosis.

How is Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treated in Cats and What is the Prognosis?

Most of the time, cats will be required to undergo surgery to treat squamous cell carcinoma. With that said, however, some cats may be better candidates for surgery than others, and your vet will tell you which options are right for your pet.

Some cats may have tumors that can be frozen off, while others may have tumors so large that they require amputation of part of the body. Depending on the location of the tumor, some cats may also be able to undergo radiation treatments.

Most squamous cell carcinomas will stay in one place, although it is possible that the condition could spread. It may sometimes find its way into the lymph nodes, which can cause it to spread throughout the body. Your cat will need to be checked several times per year to determine whether or not this has occurred. If it does not, then the prognosis is very good.

We Can Treat Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

Squamous cell carcinoma requires a veterinary diagnosis. When it is caught early enough and treated properly, cats have a good chance at recovering from this condition. However, it is important to work closely with your vet throughout the diagnosis and treatment for best results.

Cats who have squamous cell carcinoma already may be at risk of developing additional lesions, so talk to your vet for more information about preventing this problem in your cat moving forward. If referred by your vet, AVIM&O can help you better understand your cat’s specific needs when it comes to dealing with squamous cell carcinoma.