A fabulous meowdel, Summer, poses for photos online. Her fox-like ruddy fur and big green eyes wowing thousands of fans. But then, one day, her followers on TikTok noticed something unusual: a freckle on Summer’s right eye.
Summer’s human hadn’t noticed the tiny dot before, but if there’s anything you can be sure of, people on social media will instantly point out the tiniest flaw! It’s no surprise they spotted that spot on Summer’s eye, and it’s a great thing they did. Now, Summer is helping educate people about a little-known feline health topic: Iris Melanosis.
Reviewing pictures of Summer from previous years, her human realized this little freckle appeared early in 2022. At first, it was hardly noticeable, but then it became a bit more prominent, but not by much. Was it something to worry about?
Note: This information is for educational purposes only. As always, please consult your veterinarian.
Summer’s Eye Freckle Has a Name: Iris Melanosis
So, you’ve discovered your cat has an eye freckle. “Is it cancer?” you might wonder. The good news for Summer and everyone is it’s usually harmless.
After a quick trip to the veterinarian, Summer’s freckle had a new fancy name. While Iris Melanois sounds a little scary, it’s usually “nothing to worry about,” but you and your veterinarian will want to keep an eye on that eye! Routine eye checkups and bloodwork will be part of your cat’s checkups and medical history.
“While getting my annual wellness check up isn’t my favorite thing ever, it’s not really that bad!” Summer shared on Facebook.
Some cats are more prone to skin freckles, which can also develop in the eyes. For example, orange, calico, and tortoiseshell cats fall into this category. And, in cats with light-colored green eyes like Summer, freckles are much easier – to spot.
The vet may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further tests if something looks concerning. Some ophthalmologists recommend laser therapy, a newer approach. If so, getting a second opinion is always a good idea.
When Is An Eye Freckle More Than a Freckle?
In rare cases, what starts as a benign melanosis can change to malignant melanoma. Determining the difference can be tricky. Unfortunately, it can be fatal if it spreads (metastasizes) to the body. But fortunately, such cases are rare. Removing the eye may be required if a malignancy, severe irritation, or glaucoma is suspected, but as a last resort.
In Summer’s blog, she explained that her eye exam wasn’t so scary at all. A vet checked the cat’s eye with special equipment; fortunately, everything looked benign. The freckle was flat and not dark, dense or irregular.
“What she saw was a flat spot indicative of a benign melanosis. Something more dangerous would have been darker, denser, and not as flat. So it’s nothing to worry about. But it is something to keep an eye on. (So to speak!)” she shared.
You can see more in Summer’s blog post about Iris Melanosis.
What to Watch Out For
What to look out for sounds similar to what people look for in moles – anything unusual, irregular, dark, or fast growing. Other signs a freckle could indicate something more serious would be a velvety appearance, an abnormal pupil appearance, or the pigment extending to the edge of the iris.
Sometimes, Iris Melanosis can discolor most of the eye, which is more common in senior kitties. In such cases it may not necessarily be a cause for alarm. Talk to your vet to be sure.
Instead of removing an eye (enucleation), the vet can do generalized bloodwork to see if any signs of cancer are spreading in the body. Other tests could include an abdominal ultrasound, X-rays, and testing fluid from lymph nodes, which collect fluid from the eye, according to Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
In the rare case that a cat requires an enucleation, such cats are incredibly adaptable and live happy lives as affectionally called “Pirate kitties.”
Here’s a brief video about Melanosis in cats from ehow: