At a glance
Also called: Age spots, liver spots, orange cat lentigo.
About: Medically known as lentigo, dark spots on the lips, gums and eye rims are pigmented spots which are harmless. However, it is still important to see a veterinarian to evaluate the spots and confirm they are lentigo.
Symptoms: Flat, black spots on the eyelids, gums and lips of ginger, tortie and calico cats are common, they are the feline equivalent of freckles.
Treatment: No medical treatment is necessary for this condition.
Lentigo is the name of a common condition in which flat, brown or black spots appear on hairless areas including the gums, lips, nose and eye margins of orange, tortoiseshell, calico, yellow, flame (red) point coloured cats. It is the result of an increase in the number of melanocytes (pigment-producing cells).
Spots first appear on the lips, and later lesions can develop on the eyelids, gums, and nose. Lesions typically become more widespread as the cat ages.
Image Rob Stanley, Flickr
- Flat lesions start on the lips as small spots and gradually increase in size and become more numerous as the cat ages.
- Single or multiple brown/black spots (lentigines) which are small, flat or slightly raised, with a clear and defined border. The skin surrounding the area is normal. Lesion size ranges from 1-10mm.
- Most cats have single or a handful of lesions (lentigo simplex), others may have a great number of lesions (lentigo profusa).
It is associated with sun exposure in humans, however, the cause is unknown in cats.
Changes to your cat’s skin (including the gums) should be evaluated by a veterinarian. He will perform a physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you.
While lentigo is benign, he may wish to rule out other medical conditions such as melanoma. To differentiate, a biopsy will be taken using a fine needle which is sent to a laboratory for histopathology.
Image Andrew Sweeny, Flickr
Lentigo is a cosmetic condition only, it is harmless and requires no treatment.
Before I finish, I want to talk about another cause of black spots which can occur on and around your cat’s lips unrelated to lentigo. Feline acne is the presence of black comedones (blackheads) predominantly on the chin but can also occur on the lips.
I have already covered this topic in detail here, so won’t go over it again. Acne can range from mild, as in the cat below to severe. Severe acne can become inflamed and progress to open sores on the chin which will need treatment with antibiotics and medicated shampoos.