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For the most part, our pets have dense fur that acts as a natural sunscreen, but white-coated dogs and cats are the exceptions to this rule. In sunny parts of the country where pets spend a lot of time outside, like California and Colorado, sun exposure takes its toll on the thinly furred skin of the ears and nose of white dogs and cats. Dogs who sunbathe on their backs are also prone to developing squamous cell carcinoma in the thinly haired region of the tummy. Solar-induced squamous cell carcinoma can be treated with surgery or radiation therapy if found early, but prevention is simple: Limit your pet’s exposure to the sun.
A rare but important tumor that afflicts cats sometimes forms at the site of a subcutaneous injection. The injection induces inflammation that, for some unknown reason, transforms into a malignancy. Millions of cats get injections, and yet only a few develop these tumors, which are commonly known as injection site sarcomas. Why some cats do and others don’t is a frustrating conundrum for cat owners and veterinarians.
About 15 years ago, a group of experts in the field developed a guideline called 3-2-1 for the management of lumps at injections sites. The guideline advises that if a lump is present three months after an injection, and it's larger than two centimeters or is growing just a month after an injection, it should be biopsied to determine if it is a benign or a malignant mass.
This quick look at skin cancer in dogs and cats is just scratching the surface of this important disease. If you find a lump or sore anywhere on your pet’s skin, see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a practicing veterinarian for 25 years, is board-certified in both oncology and internal medicine. She maintains her clinical practice at The Animal Medical Center in New York City, providing primary care to her long-term patients and specialty care to pets with cancer and blood disorders.
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