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Cancer in cats

Cancer is quite common in cats and can negatively affect their quality of life and life expectancy. As in humans, cancer in cats is a multi-faceted disease. Therefore, many different factors are relevant to the prognosis, such as the type of tumor and the stage of the cancer.

What is cancer?

In the case of cancer, the cat's own cells begin to change in such a way that they can no longer fulfill their original function. Depending on the type of cancer, the cancer cells gradually replace the functional tissue of a particular organ in the cat and prevent it from performing its function correctly.

Cancer cells are larger and more numerous than the original cells. This often creates a lump, also called a tumor, on the diseased area. In benign cancer, the tumor grows relatively slowly and remains in the cat's organ that was originally affected.

In the case of malignant cancer, the tumor grows much faster and can also form metastases. This means that cancer cells can be detached from the malignant tumor and flushed into the bloodstream. This can cause new, malignant tumors to develop elsewhere in the cat's body.

Since cancer is based solely on processes in the body's own cells, unlike infectious diseases, the disease is not contagious.

Signs of cat cancer

Cancer in cats does not manifest itself through typical symptoms, but rather through signs of a generally impaired state of health. For example, the following symptoms could be signs of cat cancer:

Depending on the type and location of the tumor and the stage of the disease, the symptoms can look very different.

Common cancers in cats

Cancer can take many forms in cats and can affect different areas of the body. Common forms of cat cancer are:

  • malignant lymphoma
  • Skin cancer
  • Tumors of the udder
  • Lung tumors
  • Liver tumors
  • Uterine tumors

As they are the most common types of cancer, the first three cancers in cats are discussed in more detail below.

Malignant lymphoma in cats

Malignant lymphoma in cats is a very aggressive, malignant tumor of the lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a group of white blood cells that move freely in the blood and are stuck in some organs. This type of cancer is caused by Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and is a common type of cancer in cats. The most common form of malignant lymphoma in cats is either:

  • Blood cancer or
  • Gastrointestinal cancer

In the blood cancer form, the cat's bone marrow stops producing blood cell precursors. As a result, the cat becomes anemia, often has a fever, stops eating and loses weight. A bone marrow biopsy is required to diagnose this type of cancer.

In the gastrointestinal form, the cells of origin of the malignant lymphoma are the lymphocytes that are located in the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of gastrointestinal cancer are vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. In addition, the external, superficial lymph nodes are significantly enlarged and the cat no longer eats. A biopsy of one of the external lymph nodes is required to diagnose this type of cancer.

Skin cancer in cats

Skin cancer in cats can come in several forms. The most common are:

  • the fibrosarcoma
  • malignant melanoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma

Fibrosarcoma - thick tumors

The Fibrosarcoma is a malignant tumor of the connective tissue that often lodges deep in the skin and down to the bone. It is the most common type of skin cancer in cats. Pink, fleshy, stuck tumors in the cat's mouth, most often on the gums or roof of the mouth, are typical of feline fibrosarcoma. Since this type of cancer often spreads to the jaw, fibrosarcoma is also called jaw cancer. Fibrosarcomas in cats can also occur in other parts of the body, for example on the flank and back.

One often reads that vaccination can cause fibrosarcoma to occur at the injection site. This is not entirely correct as it is not the vaccination itself, but the tissue destruction caused by the needle in cats, which in rare cases can lead to skin cancer at the injection site. The low risk of skin cancer as a result of vaccination, however, is not a reasonable reason to forego vaccinations, as the cat would be left unprotected against dangerous cat diseases such as feline flu and feline disease.

Malignant melanoma: tumors on the face

Malignant melanoma is a malignant tumor of the skin pigment cells and can be pigmented or unpigmented. It is a very aggressive tumor that very often spreads to the bones of the affected cat and, in many cases, forms metastases.

The tumors are often found on the cat's eye, mouth, ear, or nose. Typical signs of malignant melanoma are enlargement of the eyeball, change in eye color and sensitivity to light (due to pain in the affected eye).

This type of cancer is most common in adult cats, almost never in a young cat. The prognosis for this form of skin cancer is worse than for fibrosarcoma. Often the cats die of relapses. This means that the tumor will come back after surgical removal.

Squamous cell carcinoma: skin cancer in the mouth

Squamous cell carcinoma is a malignant tumor in a layer of the skin. This type of cancer can be recognized by a stuck, fleshy, crumbly tumor in the cat's mouth that progressively destroys the underlying tissue.

Like fibrosarcoma, this type of cancer often spreads to the jaw. However, the behavior of the tumor depends on its location. The following applies: the further forward the tumor is in the oral cavity, the less aggressive it is and the lower the risk of metastases. The further towards the throat the squamous cell carcinoma is, the more aggressive it is.

Diagnosis and differentiation of skin cancer

To diagnose and differentiate the different types of skin cancer in cats is always one A biopsy is necessary. X-rays are needed to assess the involvement of the jaw.

Tumors of the udder

Tumors of the breasts (breast cancer) in female cats are rare in contrast to bitches. However, ninety percent of the time, they are cancerous. Therefore, mammary tumors in cats must be fought quickly and consistently. The method of choice is the complete surgical removal of the udder groin and the associated lymph nodes.

Chances of recovery in cat cancer

Whether a cat with cancer can be cured depends on many factors. The type of cancer, the position of the tumor, the malignancy and the time of diagnosis all play a role in the prognosis. The earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of recovery. In the case of a malignant tumor, the decisive factor is whether the cancer is detected before the tumor has started to metastasize.

Treatment of cancer in cats

Treatment for cat cancer differs depending on the type of cancer:

  • The treatment at Gastrointestinal cancer chemotherapy is common in cats. The short-term chance of recovery is 90 percent, with a life expectancy of around seven months. Without chemotherapy, the life expectancy of a cat with gastrointestinal cancer is two to six weeks.
  • Against blood cancer Unfortunately, there is no treatment option for cats.
  • The preferred treatment at Skin cancer and at Breast cancer is always a complete surgical removal of the tumor, possibly with the support of radiation therapy.

Improving the quality of life in cat cancer

The attending veterinarian can advise owners on how to optimize the quality of life for a cat suffering from cancer. For example, pain caused by tumors can be effectively treated with classic Painkillers how Metacam® are treated.

Please note that cancer is a serious, complex disease. In the case of serious illnesses, you should refrain from trying your own therapy without consulting the veterinarian, as well as attempting treatment with alternative methods such as homeopathy.

If, despite your best efforts, the end-stage cancer is incurable and the cat is in severe pain, it is advisable to ask the veterinarian for a life expectancy estimate and the Possibility of euthanasia to discuss with the cat.

Overview: The most important thing about cat cancer

We have summarized the most important information about cancer in cats for you below:

  • Cancer is based on the degeneration of the body's own cells and is not contagious.
  • Cancer can be benign or malignant - the more malignant, the worse the prognosis.
  • Only malignant tumors can metastasize.
  • The most common forms of malignant cat cancer include skin cancer and malignant lymphoma.
  • The earlier the cancer is detected, the better the cat's chances of recovery.
  • The treatment of tumors of the skin and breasts in cats is based on surgery and radiation therapy.
  • Treatment for gastrointestinal cancer in cats is usually done with chemotherapy.

Closely watching your cat can help identify the signs of cancer early on. With timely treatment, many types of cat cancer are curable.

Updated: 08/02/2017 - Author: Marie Cauzard

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