Cancer is not just a disease that affects humans. Did you know that cancer can also affect all other animals, including cats? Join our veterinary oncologists in La Mesa while they discuss the different types of cancer in cats and what the symptoms and diagnosis look like for your beloved pet.
Cancer In Cats
While cats may not experience cancer as often as dogs or humans, it is still very possible for cats to experience the disease. Regardless, there are a number of cancers that our beloved feline friends are more susceptible to developing, and knowing the types, symptoms and treatments can allow pet parents to provide the best care possible for their cats. Our veterinary oncologists in La Mesa discuss this more below.
Symptoms of Feline Cancer
Although the symptoms of feline cancer will vary depending on the type, your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist will be focused on diagnosis, pain management, treatment and, if necessary, palliative treatment to maintain your cat's quality of life for as long as possible. Since cats are notorious for hiding signs of pain or illness until their case is quite advanced, knowing the signs to watch for can lead to early detection and a greater chance of successful treatment.
- Lumps that change in appearance, sores, shabby or rough fur
- Lack of energy, stiffness, rapid weight change (gain or loss)
- Loss of appetite, consistent bouts of vomiting, difficulty eating
- Change in litterbox use, struggling to pass urine or feces, diarrhea
- Respiratory difficulties, foul oral odor
Common Types Of Cancer In Cats
As one of the most commonly diagnosed feline cancers, lymphoma has the ability to affect the lymphocytes (a kind of blood cell) and lymp[hoid tissues situated in many places throughout the body (e.g. lymph nodes, liver, bone marrow). It can be caused by other conditions such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Lymphoma can affect cats of any age, breed, or sex, with the gastrointestinal tract being the most commonly affected area of the body.
Treatment options include chemotherapy, which most cats can tolerate with minimal side effects. In about 70% of feline patients, chemotherapy resulted in less presence of cancer (remission).
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SSC)
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is found in the cells of the oral cavity and is the most frequently seen kind of oral tumor in cats. The signs of SSC in felines usually show as dental problems (drooling, oral odor, dental bleeding, difficulty eating) that are examined by a veterinary professional who can identify SSC via biopsy.
Although surgery is recommended to address SSC in cats, unfortunately, cats' mouths are quite small in relation to the size of the tumor by the time it is usually diagnosed. If surgical intervention is deemed appropriate, sections of the upper or lower jaw will likely be removed to reduce the likelihood of cancer invading other, deeper structures of the mouth.
While radiation and chemotherapy treatments are other options this cancer is commonly incurable and your veterinary oncologist will shift the focus to keeping your cat as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
Fibrosarcoma is cancer that affects the soft tissues of the body and although slow to spread, is aggressive in the areas in which it takes hold. This cancer usually shows physical symptoms in the form of skin lumps or masses that doesn't seem to cause the cat pain. In more advanced cases, cats will show signs of dehydration, lethargy, and poor appetite.
Surgery is the usual initial treatment for fibrosarcoma, but it is likely that the tumor will return even with particularly aggressive removal of the growth. Because of this, radiation or chemotherapy is often recommended concurrently. With successful treatment, cats with this condition can live without the disease for 1 – 2 years.
Mammary (breast) cancer is also one of the most common types of cancer that are known to affect cats, with up to 90% of mammary tumors being malignant (having the potential to spread to other body parts). More advanced cases can see the tumors spread to lymph nodes and lungs, which is why early detection is key.
The most effective and commonly performed treatment method is the surgical removal of mammary tumors. If the cat's condition has progressed (i.e. tumors are large, or lymph nodes are affected) then post-surgery chemotherapy might be advised by your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist.
Prevention of Cancer in Cats
The best option to reduce the chance of your cat developing mammary cancer is by having them spayed, ensuring that they are vaccinated against feline leukemia, and bringing your cat in for their routine veterinary checks to monitor their overall health. Since there are several cancers for which the causes are unknown, early detection is your best tool. You and your expert veterinary oncologist team are the first line of defense in your feline friend's fight against cancer!
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.