Cancer is not as common in cats as dogs, but it can still have devastating effects on our beloved felines. Moreover, cats are incredibly difficult to diagnose because they tend to mask signs of illness which often leads to late diagnosis and challenging and costly treatments. So though the rate of cancer is about half that seen in dogs, the disease tends to be more advanced and more aggressive once it is diagnosed in cats. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common forms of cancer in cats, how to spot the symptoms, and how to prevent cancer in cats.
Types of Cat Cancer
Among the most common forms of cancer in cats is lymphoma. Lymphoma is generally associated with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV), which actually has a vaccination. Unfortunately, a number of cats continue to be exposed to FeLV which significantly increases a cat’s risk of developing feline lymphoma. In addition, oral squamous carcinoma is similar to tumours found in humans. For example, fibro-sarcoma is a tumour that develops in the muscles and connective tissues of the body. Lung tumours, brain tumours, nasal tumours, and liver tumours are not as common in cats but they can develop. The rate of mammary tumours on the other hand is quite low because of the tendency to have cats spayed.
Cats are known to hide disease well, and many symptoms appear across various diseases. While we may be able to visibly identify lumps and bumps, other common signs of cancer may include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and the build-up of fluid in the lungs. Moreover, cats with cancer or other conditions may refuse to eat and show significant weight loss. A rough coat or general signs of failure to thrive may also be an indication of illness. Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify symptoms that are specific to cancer in cats so you should always visit a veterinarian if you notice any of these signs in your cat. Diagnosing cancer usually requires a number of diagnostic tests followed by a biopsy. Though many cases can be diagnosed quickly, many cannot and more advanced diagnostics are required. In order to develop the proper treatment, your veterinarian must first identify the sub-type of cancer and many cat owners prefer not to proceed with diagnosis or treatment without a solid prognosis.
There are several steps you can take to reduce your cat’s risk of cancer. As in humans, a healthy diet and regular exercise help to maintain your cat’s overall health and prevent cancer. Medically, spaying your cat significantly reduces the risk of cancer as does vaccination for feline leukemia. However, it can be incredibly difficult to prevent a disease of which the causes are unknown which makes early detection and treatment even more critical.