Malignant Melanoma in Cats

Feline Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is a tumor arising from melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment. There is no known cause of malignant melanoma. It is seen more commonly in dogs than cats and primarily affects middle-aged to older pets.

Malignant melanoma can originate from different areas in the body, most often the oral cavity, skin, and digits. The aggressiveness of the tumor and the likelihood of the metastasis vary with the tumor location. Any organ may be affected by a metastatic melanoma (tumor that has spread from a primary site).

What to Watch For

Tumors occur most commonly in the skin, digits and in the mouth. The tumors may be pigmented (black) or unpigmented.

In patients with cutaneous melanoma:

Patients with advanced disease may experience difficulty breathing due to metastasis (spread) to the lungs.

Diagnosis of Malignant Melanoma in Cats

Treatment of Malignant Melanoma in Cats

Home Care and Prevention

Prognosis is generally guarded and early detection is very important. Those occurring in the scrotum, digit, or oral cavity are most often malignant. It is estimated that most oral melanomas are malignant and 60% are metastatic. Approximately 30 to 60% of nail bed tumors are metastatic. Aggressive and radical surgery greatly increases survival times and decreases reoccurrence rates.

Contact your veterinarian if there is recurrence of the melanoma or change at the surgical site. Return for follow up as directed by your veterinarian.

There is no preventative care for malignant melanoma.