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Eyelid Tumors in Cats

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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Eyelid tumors are less common in cats than they are in dogs, and are more often malignant. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most frequent type of eyelid tumor in the cat. The prevalence of SCC is higher for white cats, especially for older, outdoor cats with prolonged sun exposure.

Lymphosarcoma and mast cell tumors (mastocytoma) are the next most common tumors that affect the feline eyelid. In certain animals, both tumor types may get smaller with medical therapy.

Eyelid tumor enlargement can interfere with proper eyelid blinking and cause irritation of the eye from rubbing of the tumor against the cornea (the clear surface of the eye). Conjunctivitis and eye discharge are common in cats with growing eyelid tumors.

Not all nodules or masses of the eyelids are tumors. Some fungal infections can form small nodules on the eyelids and certain types of inflammation may also mimic the appearance of eyelid tumors.

What to Watch For

  • Swelling and nodule or mass formation on the eyelid surface or along the eyelid margin
  • Ulcerated and reddened area on eyelid margin.
  • Excessive tearing
  • Mucoid or pus-like discharge from the eye
  • Bloodshot or reddened conjunctiva
  • Cloudiness, bluish haze or film covering the cornea
  • Frequent pawing or rubbing of the eye
  • Minor bleeding from the eyelid
  • Increased blinking or squinting of the eyelids

    Diagnosis

    Veterinary care often includes diagnostic tests to determine the type of eyelid lesion and to direct subsequent treatment. Your veterinarian may recommend some of the following:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination

  • Complete ophthalmic examination including close examination of the eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, and front chamber of the eye

  • Fluorescein staining of the cornea

  • Bacterial culture of secretions from the eye

  • Fungal culture and cytology (microscopic examination) of skin scrapings from around the eyelid

  • Fine needle aspirate of the eyelid tumor for cytology

  • Tissue biopsy of the eyelid tumor

  • Complete blood count and serum biochemistry

  • Feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus testing

  • Chest X-rays to look for possible spread of the tumor

    Treatment

    Treatments for eyelid tumors may include one or more of the following:

  • The recommended treatment for many eyelid tumors of the cat is surgical removal. This can be often be accomplished by removing a portion of the eyelid along with the tumor and then suturing the remaining eyelid back together.

  • Large eyelid tumors may require surgical reconstructive techniques of the skin and tissues around the eyelid to preserve adequate protection of the eye after tumor removal. This is particularly true of large squamous cell carcinoma tumors of the eyelid.

  • Certain types of eyelid tumors may respond to medical therapy. Small mast cell tumors (mastocytomas) may respond to systemic corticosteroids or locally injected corticosteroids. Lymphosarcoma of the eyelid may respond to chemotherapy, as this site can represent metastasis of systemic cancer.

  • Certain types of tumors may respond to cryotherapy, which is freezing of the tumor. This therapy may be considered for some small mast cell tumors, small and confined squamous cell carcinomas, and selected other tumors.

  • If the tumor is large and invades the surrounding tissues, then surgical removal may also involve removal of the eye and permanent closure of the skin of the face and forehead.

    Home Care and Prevention

    If an eyelid nodule or swelling is observed, call your veterinarian promptly. Immediate evaluation of the eyelid lesion is very important if accompanying symptoms of ocular discomfort are observed, such as increased blinking, tearing and redness of the eye.

    Gently wipe away any eye discharge with a warm moist cloth as needed to keep the eyelid clean. Do not allow the pet to rub or self-traumatize the eyelids. After diagnosis of an eyelid tumor, lubricating or antibiotic ointments may be prescribed until the time of surgical removal.

    There is no preventive measures for most types of eyelid tumors. It is well known that squamous cell carcinoma develops more commonly in cats that have pink or white eyelids and are exposed on a regular basis to bright sunlight. Reducing sun exposure in these cats by keeping them indoors may help to reduce the risk of developing this type of tumor.

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