Know Your Cat’s Nose

Check your cat's nose to detect disease or health in your cat.

Your dog or cat’s nose can be used to communicate as well as question, but what other telltale signs can your cat’s nose convey?

“Some cat caregivers worry about black spots on the nose of their cat,” notes Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“The concern is if these black spots are cancerous, but in reality the spots are a normal finding in young orange cats,” Patterson explains. “These black spots can appear on your cat’s nose as well as lips, eye margins, gums and mouth.”

“Usually orange tabbies are more prone to these black spots which is a condition known as lentigo simplex,” notes Patterson. “These spots are somewhat comparable to freckles in humans and are not itchy or painful.”

”However, there should be concern if you find raised or inflamed spots that cause soreness and pain,” Patterson says. “Always have these types of spots examined by your veterinarian.”

Cats and dogs are prone to sunburn and subsequent skin cancer on noses, ears and around the eyes,” notes Patterson. “Fair-skinned animals with light-colored hair coats are at the most risk. Limiting sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the summertime here in Texas can reduce the risk for solar damage.”

Your cat or kitten’s runny nose may indicate other medical conditions are lingering, states Patterson. Cat respiratory infections may manifest themselves as nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing and difficult breathing. Foreign bodies or tumors in the nasal passages may cause these same signs.  If your pet exhibits any of these health problems, it should be seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

“Remember that wet or dry noses are not a sign of illness per se,” Patterson says.  “Whether your pet’s nose is dry or wet is largely related to the temperature and humidity in their environment. Lethargy, little or no appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and inappropriate urination are some signs that better reflect illness.”

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