Q & A: Are white cats prone to skin cancer and is it treatable?

Q. My white cat has small sores on the tips of her ears and on the pink skin of her nose. Someone suggested it could be skin cancer. Are white cats prone to skin cancer and is it treatable? Can one prevent it in any way?

A. White cats are very sensitive to the effects of UV radiation. The lack of hair and skin pigment on the tip of the ears and on the nose may lead to early changes and over a period of time it may become cancerous. The most commonly diagnosed cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma.

If you have a white cat, be aware that the tip of the ears and nose can be burned by the sun. If you see a redness developing on these areas, let your vet check it. He may prescribe a sunblock for you to use. Other symptoms include small raised areas which may become crusty later on. In this case your vet might consider amputation of the ear tips or possible chemotherapy of the nasal area. This condition is similar to the skin cancer people get from excessive sun exposure. Prevention includes keeping white cats indoors and using pet-specific sunblock, available from your veterinarian.

Dr Albertus Coetzee, Westacres


Q. My crossbreed cat regularly brings up a yellowish, watery substance (she is short-haired so it’s not hairball-related). She is six years old. Should I be worried and what could be the reason for her vomiting?

A. Vomiting can be acute or chronic. Acute onset implies that is has suddenly developed, whereas with chronic it has been present for a number of weeks and sometimes months. The most common causes for acute vomiting include parasites such as worms within the intestines, infections (viral or bacterial), eating food that is off, toxins, change of diet, and foreign bodies within the stomach or intestines. Depending on the cause, the vomiting often settles down with symptomatic treatment, is not life threatening and does not require much investigation to the cause.

Exceptions to this are foreign bodies, which need to be surgically removed, malicious poisoning and infection with panleukopenia, which is a life threatening viral disease that requires intensive treatment. In some cases of acute vomiting the cat may become dehydrated and require fluid therapy.

Common causes for chronic vomiting include kidney and liver disease, Helicobacter gastritis, cancer of the stomach or intestines, diet allergies, intestinal parasites, inflammatory bowel disease and foreign bodies. These conditions seldom settle down with symptomatic therapy and require a specific diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis of chronic vomiting can include blood and faecal tests, radiographs, ultrasound examination of the abdomen, and sometimes a scope of the stomach and intestines.

With both acute and chronic vomiting a consultation with your veterinarian is required so that a diagnosis can be made and treatment given.

Dr Remo Lobetti, Bryanston


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