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Q: My 3-year-old orange tabby, Gulliver, has small dark spots on his nose and lips. They don't seem to bother him. They look like freckles. Should I be concerned?

A: What you describe on Gulliver sounds a lot like a common occurrence in orange cats called "lentigo."

Lentigo is caused by pigment cells in the skin called melanocytes. This benign pigmentation occurs at mucocutaneous surfaces such as the lip, eyelids, nose and gums and is similar to freckles in people.

Lentigo is harmless but should be monitored as more serious skin growths can occur. The difference between lentigo and other skin growths is that lentigo is flat (flush with the skin) and more serious growths would likely be raised.

Point out the lentigo spots at your next veterinary visit and refer to them by name. Your vet will be so impressed by your medical vocabulary. If the pigmented spots are raised you should make an appointment immediately.

Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 1252, Buffalo, N.Y. 14205 or to the Web site at Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.

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