is a fluffy female cat 10 years of age. Can you guess
what color she might be? I ask the question because it
is relevant to what might be causing her problem.
to Tamara, Snowball’s house servant (Tamara’s
words), Snowball has a problem with her left ear. Her
problem initially started with some crusting/scabbing on
the tip edge and Tamara says she used to be able to rub
off the crusts leaving an area of slightly reddened skin
behind. Over time however, the crusting has spread
toward the ear base and the very tip edge now seems to
be eroding. Tamara has tried treating with Neosporin,
vitamin E oil and cortisone cream with no improvement.
needs to see her veterinarian. It is my suspicion that
there is no over the counter remedy for what is causing
the skin lesion on Snowball’s ear.
first step by the vet will be fairly noninvasive, a skin
scrape using a scalpel blade across the area for
examination under a microscope. This can show the cells
involved with the lesion as well as possible skin
parasites. Another quick and easy test is a culture for
the fungus that causes ringworm. This involves removal
of a few hairs from around the lesion area. I suspect
these tests in Snowball’s case will all be negative
— they will not reveal the cause of her skin problem.
suspicion is that Snowball has a type of cancer called
squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer is
particularly aggressive and depending on the location
can quickly lead to death. In cats this is especially
true if it occurs in the mouth, although squamous cell
carcinoma of the ear can erode away the entire ear then
spread to the rest of the head. In Snowball’s case,
the lesions were on the edge of the ear tip. Since
Tamara did not note it’s progression, I am not sure as
to the extent now.
definitively diagnose Snowball’s ear problem we will
need a biopsy. If the problem is indeed squamous cell
carcinoma, all is not lost. Because of the location —
and assuming it has not progressed too far toward the
base of the ear — it may be entirely curable. The cure
will involve resection of part of the ear including
visibly healthy tissue as a margin from the tumor.
Snowball may not appreciate her reflection in the mirror
as much as before surgery but it is a small price to
mentioned earlier that Snowball’s coat color may be
playing a role in her disease. This is because white
cats, yes, you were right, Snowball is a white cat; show
a higher incidence for squamous cell carcinoma. Another
curious point is that outdoor cats are far more at risk
for this disease than those living indoors because of
increased sun exposure. Snowball however is an indoor
cat thus providing yet another illustration that there
are few absolutes.