Common Cat Diseases: Cancer

As a cat parent, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of common illnesses so you can seek veterinary help for your feline friend in a timely manner if necessary.
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Cancer is a class of diseases in which cells grow uncontrollably, invade surrounding tissue and may spread to other areas of the body. As with people, cats can get various kinds of cancer. The disease can be localized (confined to one area, like a tumor) or generalized (spread throughout the body).

Causes of Cancer

Cancer is a “multifactorial” disease, which means it has no known single cause. However, we do know that both hereditary and environmental factors can lead to the development of cancer in cats.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the ear, eyelid or nose is a skin cancer caused by repeated exposure to the sun. White, or light colored, cats are more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Lymphosarcoma or lymphoma (LSA), is one of the most common type of cancer in cats. Some reports estimate that 30% of all reported cat cancers are due to LSA. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is linked to most forms of LSA except for the gastrointestinal (GI) form. FeLV is a transmittable retrovirus that can be passed in utero as well as through saliva and direct contact. Primarily a disease in younger cats, the virus doesn’t always manifest symptoms, so it is important to have your cat tested regularly to prevent transmission and progression. There is a vaccine available for FeLV that your veterinarian can discuss with you based on your cat’s lifestyle and risk of exposure to FeLV.

The GI form of LSA (the most common form) can cause a large mass in the stomach or intestine or diffuse infiltration throughout the intestinal tract.
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It is important to take your cat to your veterinarian if any evidence of disease is noted. LSA is not curable, however, most cats respond well to treatment.

Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of cancer in cats may include:

  • Lumps (which are not always malignant, but are always worth having a veterinarian examine)
  • Swelling
  • Persistent sores or skin infections
  • Abnormal discharge from any part of the body
  • Bad breath
  • Listlessness, lethargy or other marked change in behavior
  • Weight loss
  • Sudden lameness
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Scaly and/or red skin patches
  • Decreased or loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
  • Change in behavior

Think your cat is showing symptoms of cancer? Give us a call right away!

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