4 Things Bird Owners Need To Know About Squamous Cell Carcinoma

3 January 2016
 Categories: , Blog

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that develops within the squamous cells. Squamous cells are the flat cells that line the skin, oral cavity, and other areas. You probably already know that people can get this type of cancer, but you may not know that your pet bird can develop it, too. Here are four things bird owners need to know about squamous cell carcinoma.

Why do birds get squamous cell carcinoma?

Many factors can cause squamous cell carcinoma in birds. Here are some possible causes:

  • Having a genetic pre-disposition to cancer
  • Suffering from trauma, like cuts or chronic irritation
  • Being obese
  • Eating a poor diet, such as one that only contains seed mix
  • Not getting enough exercise

Fortunately, many of these factors are controllable. You can't change your pet's genes, but you can ensure that they get exercise time outside of their cage, are fed a well-rounded diet that includes fruits and vegetables, and are protected from things that could injure them.

Is squamous cell carcinoma common?

Squamous cell carcinoma in birds doesn't get much attention, but that doesn't mean it's rare. Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of cancer among birds. The cancer tends to develop as birds age and generally occurs when birds are in their late teens to late twenties. Since it's common, it's important to monitor your bird for signs of this cancer.

What are the signs of this cancer?

These cancers can develop anywhere on your bird's body, but they're most common at the mucocutaneaous junctions on your bird's head, on the wings, and on the feet. Mucocutaneous junctions are areas where mucous membranes meet the skin and include areas like around the eyes, around the cloaca, and around the beak. Make sure to check these areas for new lumps or bumps, and if you find any, bring them to your vet's attention as they could be cancerous.

Can vets treat it?

Squamous cell carcinomas are a locally invasive type of cancer, which means they grow deeply into the affected area. This makes it hard for vets to remove the tumors surgically.

Your vet may attempt radiation therapy to treat your bird. Radiation therapy, as you probably know, uses radiation to kill cancer cells. Squamous cell carcinoma in birds tends to be fairly resistant to radiation, so it's rare for this to be a long-term control method.

Vets have also experimented with photodynamic therapy to treat this type of cancer. This treatment is also used in humans. Light-sensitive compounds are exposed to light, which then makes them toxic to diseased cells. These compounds then destroy the cancer cells. This treatment can shrink your pet's tumor, but since it's still experimental, it's not known if it can cure the cancer.

If you've noticed a suspicious lump on your bird's body, they may have squamous cell carcinoma and take your bird to the animal hospital as soon as possible.