I talk about cat rodent ulcers quite a bit on this blog, mainly because Maggie gets them frequently and has done so for all of her life. But it strikes me that I typically talk about these sores when they're in a late stage of development. When her ulcers are open and a little bloody, that's when they appear on the blog.
But in reality, many of Maggie's ulcers never erupt into painful, bloody sores. Much more frequently, she has a very mild form of ulcer that is--I've been told--not very painful. And with the right therapy, I can keep those sores from getting worse.
Maggie has another one of these issues now, so I thought I might show you what it looks like. Here she is in closeup. Look at her lower lip here.
See how half of her lower lip is white? Now, look closely at that white part. There's a tiny bit of black here. That's the ulcer.
Rodent ulcers are caused by an overactive immune system. And they respond as do most immune system problems with swelling. Maggie's little black lower lip is puffy in just one spot, so I can see it on the bottom of her face, peeping out through her fur.
Maggie's lip can stay in this phase for weeks. When they appear, an injection of Depo-Medrol, which is a steroid medication, can help to take the swelling down again.
Maggie has that vaccine quarterly as a preventive measure, but she often gets ulcers like this the week or so before her injection is due. Within a day or so of having that injection, the swelling goes back down.
In acute stages, ulcers like this are spectacularly bloody. Maggie has bled all over her fur, her food bowls and me when an ulcer has gone wrong. And those open lesions can cause scarring--and some have tied that scarred skin to cancer.
So spotting an ulcer when it's early and new is pretty vital, even if seeing it is a little hard.
I look for lips that are so puffy that they shine, like this. Lips shouldn't be shiny. And when I see it, off to the vet we go.
I hope this helps some of you out there who are also dealing with rodent ulcers. There are plenty of ways to treat them, in addition to Depo-Medrol, but you have to know what they are in order to get your cats the therapies that are needed.
If you're using another therapy with your cat, I'd love to know about it. Drop me a note in the comments, okay?
And if you want to see what the next phase of these ulcers look like, see this example of a top-lip ulcer, and this example of a middle-of-the-mouth lesion. Both look pretty scary, but both healed just fine. If you're dealing with this, there is hope!