Skitzo with the tumor on the edge of his bottom eyelid
Skitzo under anaesthetic, showing the tumor on the edge of his bottom eyelid

Vets are very used to dogs, cats and small furries developing growths on various parts of their anatomy. We very often take a small sample of the growth by means of a needle (known as a fine needle aspirate or FNA) before deciding what action to take. In most cases the growth is removed surgically.

Skitzo was a 9 year old cat with something of an attitude to being handled by vets (and sometimes his owner). A fast growing lump had come up beneath his right eye and was very close to the edge of the eyelid. A fine needle aspirate was impossible in this case without him being anaesthetised so we decided to remove the lump and send it off to the lab for the pathologists to tell us what tissue type we were dealing with.

The most important thing they can tell us is whether the tumour is benign or malignant. Sometimes growths can seem to be benign but still cause problems by recurring in the same place they were removed. The worst type of tumour is one which is malignant and which has the potential to spread (metastasise) to the lungs or other organs via the blood stream.

Skitzo’s tumour was a surgical challenge because it was so near to the margin of the eyelid. If too much tissue is removed, the lower lid will turn outwards (called ectropian) leaving a gaping pocket and encouraging infection, inflammation and an overspilling of tears. On the other hand, cutting too close to the growth risks tumour cells being left behind and the growth returning very quickly.

Skitzo after the operation, still under anaesthetic
Skitzo after the operation, still under anaesthetic

Dissolving stitches were used because Skitzo was never going to let us take them out when he was awake. We fitted him up with an Elizabethan collar so that he could not scratch or rub the stitches out. The plastic collars look unwieldy and owners are often tempted to take them off as soon as they get home but most animals adapt to them very well and it’s only a relatively short time before the stitches are removed and life returns to normal. Nylon stitches are usually removed in 8 to 10 days after the operation but this can be extended if the skin is especially thick, under tension or if the animal is receiving steroid treatment.

Skitzo’s tissue sample came back as a benign growth and there is every prospect that the surgery has been a complete success. Fortunately Skitzo’s pet insurance company paid the bill for the surgery and the laboratory tests which were needed.

If you are concerned about lumps or any other problems with your cat, please contact your vet or use our interactive Cat Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.