Although cancers in cats may occur at any age, older felines are at a greater risk. It has different symptoms depending on the type of cancer. Symptoms include lumps and bumps, diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, and poor appetite. Note that cats are adept in hiding any signs of weakness. As such, having an annual check-up with your veterinarian is the best preventive measure. Treatment has more chance of success with early detection.
Types of cancers in cats
What kind of cancer can cats get? The most common cancer types observed in cats are the following:
- Basal cell tumour (skin cancer)
- Carcinoma/adenocarcinoma – mainly affects intestine, lungs, and other vital organs
- Fibrosarcoma – affects any soft tissue such as the skin
- Lymphoma – mostly affects the GI tract, lymph nodes, and others
- Mammary carcinoma – usually develops as malignant mammary tumours
- Mast cell tumour – usually affects the skin (cutaneous mast cell tumours) and some internal organs (visceral mast cell tumours)
- Squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer)
- Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)
Diagnosing cancer in cats
Can a cat live with cancer? Some cancers are treatable especially when the condition is diagnosed early.
What are the signs of cancer in a cat? The most apparent sign of cancer is the manifestation of lumps. Cats having no appetite and hiding in a quiet place are indications that something is wrong.
According to Jake Zaidel, DVM, founder of Malta Animal Hospital, ‘Owners often tell me they notice when their cat is ill if they’re usually social but have been spending more time in new hiding spots, or that they stop coming out at feeding time.’
Will blood test show cancer in cats? Further tests are required to provide an accurate diagnosis of cancers in cats as well as what stage the cancer is at.
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound or MRI scanning
Most common treatments for cancers in cats
Advancements in veterinary practices paved the way for more cancer treatment options. However, the truth remains that there is no single cure for cancer. Treatment plans for cats with cancer usually include the following options.
- Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is initiated using drugs that are strong enough to destroy or damage cancer cells. It is usually recommended for patients suffering from leukaemia, lymphoma, and other types of cancers that have significantly spread.
- Conventional radiation therapy When the damage cannot be surgically removed, conventionally fractionated radiation therapy (CFRT) is often the next options. It uses radiation to destroy cancers in the body and usually requires anaesthesia to ensure that the cat remains still during the process.
- Cryotherapy Cryotherapy is usually prescribed to cats with small tumours in certain areas including the eyelids, skin, and oral cavity.
- Immunotherapy This therapy uses antibodies to strengthen the function of the body’s natural defences as well as stimulating the immune system to boost fighting off cancer cells.
- Surgery This is often the most recommended treatment when the complete removal of the cancer is possible. However, situations become more complicated when total removal is uncertain.
- Palliative care There are some pet owners that opt for pain management rather than the other treatment options. The aim of palliative care is to provide a sense of relief from manifesting symptoms such as bleeding, pain, and mobility complications.
Recommended diet for cats with cancer
The ideal diet for cats suffering from cancer is no different from the diet given to healthy cats. It should be high-quality cat food rich in protein and low in carbohydrates.
Points to consider
Treatment for cancers largely depends on how advanced the disease has progressed, taking into consideration the cat’s age, general health, and the type of cancer.
Doing research and consulting with health experts can help you decide on the best treatment option for your cat. Here are some of the things to consider:
Confirm the diagnosis.
It is best to have the diagnosis confirmed through a biopsy test. The biopsy is a method that involves removing cells from the affected tissue for a detailed analysis by a specialist. It will find out whether the cancer is benign or malignant.
Consult with a specialist.
A regular veterinarian usually does not have expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. That being said, a consultation with a certified veterinary oncologist is the best course of action prior to initiating treatments for cancer.
Get a second opinion on diagnosis and treatment.
It is wise to get a second opinion on the diagnosis and decision for cancer treatments. Know that there are some practices that are more driven by financial gain rather than medical necessity.
Get a better understanding of the recommended treatment.
Is the recommended treatment a cure for cancer or a remedy to relieve the symptoms of cancer? Choose the cancer treatment that is appropriate for your cat’s condition.