Cat cancer is among the most commonly diagnosed diseases in cats, impacting their health and quality of life if not detected early. With early detection and a comprehensive treatment plan, your cat can have a positive prognosis. At Animal Farm Pet Hospital , we work extremely hard to bring you the accurate information you need for your beloved cat, so we’ve taken FAQs on cat cancer and answered them here as thoroughly and accurately as possible.
If you’re looking for a highly trained veterinarian in San Francisco, CA, we’d love to see your cat to screen for cancer, so please call us at (415) 333-0813.
What is cat cancer?
Cat cancer is similar to human cancer in that it's a cell type that is multiplying and causing problems in your cat. It starts with any cell in the body that decides it will proliferate unchecked, creating an abnormal population of cells.
How will cancer impact my cat's health and quality of life?
Just as with humans, cancer in cats comes in many forms. How it will impact your cat’s quality of life depends on the type of cancer and its location. Some cancers are very aggressive and develop quickly, while others are slow-growing. It varies tremendously with the kind of cancer, but the best thing we can do is catch it early.
What are some of the most common types of cat cancer, and what are some cat cancer symptoms?
Many cat cancers mirror those that affect humans, with some being more common than others.
Common types of cat cancers and symptoms for each include:
- Mast cell cancer – hard, flattened areas on the skin, nodules, and itching if the tumor has caused inflammation
- Lymphoma – decreased appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and weight loss
- Cat Skin cancer – lesions, scabs, and bumps on the skin
- Squamous cell carcinoma – rubbing of the face, excessively licking a spot, swelling, and decreased grooming
- Bone cancer – swelling, favoring the impacted limb, and wobbly gait
- Lung cancer – loss of appetite, labored or rapid breathing, coughing, and fever
- Soft tissue sarcomas – firm lump under the skin, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Lymphoma is among the most common cat cancers we see at Animal Farm Pet Hospital , most commonly intestinal lymphoma. Skin cancers, or squamous cell carcinoma, are cancers we might find on their face, ears, in their throats, or on their tongues. Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine offers additional insight on squamous cell carcinoma in cats.
How will a veterinarian diagnose cancer in my cat?
At Animal Farm Pet Hospital , we occasionally find cancer as part of a routine exam. The veterinarian may be palpating a cat, feeling their belly, and discover swelling or enlargement within the abdomen. However, the diagnosis will often begin with a cat owner saying, "Something's not right with my cat." Cats are good at hiding illness, so if your cat is showing signs of weight loss, eating a little bit less, hiding more, or if you feel a lump or bump, see your veterinarian as soon as possible. If your cat is vomiting more frequently, has blood in their stool or urine, or has difficulty urinating, those are also reasons to see your veterinarian.
If my cat does have cancer, what type of treatment options may be recommended?
The most important task is to get a conclusive diagnosis of the type of cancer. Depending on the diagnosis, your veterinarian will determine whether surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatment is needed. The treatment plan depends entirely on the type of cancer and how far it has progressed.
Why is early detection and diagnosis of cancer in cats so important?
As with humans, early detection is critical, since a small tumor is easier to remove than a large tumor and less likely to have spread. Additionally, early detection means your cat will be in better condition to tolerate surgery, chemotherapy, and any other treatment more easily.
During an oral exam, your veterinarian might find a tiny bump on your cat's tongue or somewhere on the roof of their mouth, which may be a very early sign of cancer. It’s much better to find it this way than to have it show up a year later, when it has grown into a large mass. At that point, options become more limited.
Early detection is also crucial in the case of lymphoma which, if caught early, can go into remission and sometimes even be cured. This makes an annual exam, or one every six months for older cats, very important. As always, if you see anything out of the ordinary, bring your cat to see your veterinarian for an exam.
Why is it so important to avoid self-diagnosing cancer in your cat?
Even veterinarians cannot identify a condition by simply looking, so owners certainly shouldn’t attempt to diagnose their cat that way either. You will need diagnostic testing, which might require x-rays, biopsies, lab work, and sometimes abdominal ultrasounds. Getting a diagnosis is the first step in your veterinarian’s ability to cure the cancer. It’s also vital to avoid self-diagnosing because cats tend to conceal symptoms, so annual blood work becomes critical to find anything they might have.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers additional insight into cancer in pets, including diagnosis, treatment, and success rates. If you have further questions about cat cancer, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near San Francisco, CA, we’d love to see your cat for a screening, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (415) 333-0813.