Diagnosing And Treating Cancer In Cats

At Countryside Veterinary Clinic, we understand that feline cancer is a devastating diagnosis. It is natural to feel highly emotional. However, a cat cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a hopeless one. Depending upon how early it is identified and the type of cancer involved, there are certainly options that can lead to very positive outcomes.

Our veterinarians and support staff are well trained, highly empathetic, and understanding of the fact that it is necessary to focus on both the emotional and medical aspects of treating cats with cancer. We are here to work with you to make sure you have a good understanding of your cat's illness and to help you make decisions that will be best for you and your cat.

How Common Is Cancer In Cats?

Similar to human beings, cancer in cats is a leading cause of death among older felines.

It is important for you to understand that depending on the specific circumstances of your cat's condition, feline cancer may be treatable. Medical advancements have provided us with more treatment options for cats with cancer. However, the best way to prevent cancer in cats is to emphasize a healthy lifestyle and adhere to a preventive health care regimen. This includes scheduling regular wellness checkups with your veterinarian.

Recognizing Cat Cancer Symptoms

First and foremost, fighting cancer in cats begins with recognizing symptoms of the disease while it is still in the early stages. However, this can be tricky because cats are very good at hiding illness. Many forms of cat cancer have external symptoms. Therefore, periodically inspecting your feline friend is key to spotting cancer symptoms. Some of the more common cat cancer symptoms include:

  • Any lump that changes shape or size
  • Any sore that does not heal
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Unexplained bleeding or discharge from the body
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Stiffness
  • Oral odor

Should you notice any signs, please schedule an appointment with us as soon as you can. We will gather a history, perform a complete physical examination, and perform the necessary testing to make a diagnosis. If cancer is diagnosed early, the prognosis for recovery increases significantly.

Types Of Feline Cancer

There are various types of feline cancer. We have compiled a short list here, meant only to serve as an introduction to some of the more common types of feline cancer. If you suspect your cat may have cancer, please schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians.

  • Ceruminous Adenomas are small, dark blue, brown, or black tumors and are usually confined to the external ear canal.
  • Lymphoma- lymphosarcoma (LSA) affects the stomach, intestines and other lymphatic tissues. Signs may include loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, and constipation. 
  • Myeloproliferative tumors are genetic and can be passed on through reproduction. They affect bone marrow and blood. Symptoms include weakness, labored breathing, pale mucous membranes, and a loss of appetite.
  • Melanoma tumors are basal cell tumors. They are not very common in cats but can occur nonetheless. They are usually found around the neck, head, ears, and shoulders in cats. They are mostly benign and form as solid lumps underneath the skin.
  • Squamous cell carcinomas affect areas lacking natural pigmentation, such as the oral cavity, lips, nose, eyelids, external ear, limbs, toes, and nails. 
  • Mast cell tumors appear as skin nodules that are ulcerated or pigmented. They can be located anywhere on a cat's body and must be biopsied to diagnose.
  • Osteosarcoma tumors affect the bones, joints, and lungs. These tumors can lead to swelling, lameness, coughing, and breathing difficulties. Diagnostic tools include X-Rays and biopsies.
  • Fibrosarcomas tumors occur in the fibrous tissue just beneath a cat's skin. They can appear as solid, irregular masses underneath the skin. A biopsy is the most accurate diagnostic tool.

Cancer Treatment For Cats

The first key to cancer treatment for cats is a proper diagnosis. At Countryside Veterinary Clinic, we begin with a full physical exam. We commonly look at blood work, and when necessary, employ the use of diagnostic imaging such as radiography or ultrasound. We also perform needle aspirates, which is a form of biopsy in which a needle is inserted into the tumor to collect cells for use in determining tumor type. This is a non-painful and minimally invasive method used for diagnosis. Some tumor types require a core biopsy for diagnosis. In certain cases, cancer specialists may be employed for further diagnostic testing (such as MRI and CT scans) and as part of our team in treating your cat's cancer.

Communication with you is important throughout the process of diagnosis and treatment. This includes discussing all possible cancer treatment options for your cat and the various possible outcomes.  We also evaluate the costs involved, your expectations, possible lifestyle changes, and any possible side effects of treatment to ensure that you are able to make informed decisions.

Treating cancer in cats varies greatly depending on the location and stage of the disease. Traditional cat cancer treatments may involve:

  • Oral medication
  • Intravenous chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgical reduction or removal of the tumor
  • Ancillary pain management

Complementary treatments may include immunotherapy, or nutritional therapy.

Fortunately, for all the unknowns when dealing with cat cancer, we do know more about cancer in cats now than we ever have before, and because of this, you now have more options than ever when pursuing cat cancer treatment.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Cat Has Cancer

If you suspect cat cancer, whether you find a lump or notice behavioral changes, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Our veterinarians and veterinary support staff will provide you and your feline friend with compassionate, comprehensive care and support services. Although cat cancer can be frightening and painful, we are here to help ease your cat's pain and suffering and eliminate cancer by providing the best veterinary care available.