Cats get cancer too, and the prevalence of feline cancer is increasing. Advances in veterinary medicine have allowed cats to live longer, and cancer is generally a disease of older animals. Cancer means the unrestrained cell division and growth. Normally, cell division is tightly regulated. When a single cell undergoes a series of genetic mutations, cancer may arise, causing cell division to become unregulated, resulting in a tumor.
Cats are susceptible to a variety of cancers, and the top 5 types are:
- Lymphoma is a cancer of a type of blood cell (lymphocytes) and lymphoid tissues. Lymphoid tissue is normally present in many places in the body, including gastrointestinal tract, the chest structure, the liver, spleen and kidneys. The age of affected cats range, on average, from 2 to 6 years, although a cat is susceptible to lymphoma at any age. Infection with the feline leukemia virus increases the risk of developing lymphosarcoma.
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). FeLV was one of the leading causes of lymphoma in cats until the development of the FeLV vaccine.
- Mammary (breast) Cancer. Mammary tumors tend to develop in older cats. Spaying cats before their first heat lessens the risk of future mammary tumor development. It is rare for male cats to be affected with mammary cancer.
- Skin Cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for a high percentage of all feline skin tumors. These tumors usually involve light or unpigmented skin, and sun exposure increases the risk of a cat developing SCC. The most common locations are the hairless area of the nose, the eyelids, and ears.
- Fibrosarcoma. Fibrosarcoma is an aggressive tumor that develops from fibrous connective tissue.
According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, there are some common signs of cancer in cats that owners can look for:
- Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from anybody opening
- Offensive odor
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
Other signs, such as pain, fever, anemia, drinking too much water, producing excessive urine, and ravenous appetite may also be signs of feline cancer, depending on the specific tumor and the effects it has on the body.
If you have any questions about cancer in cats, please give us a call.