Cancer in Older Cats

This disease frequently raises its ugly head in many of our feline senior citizens. Cats are very good at hiding signs of illness so it can be difficult to tell that your pet is ill. This means that when he eventually does show signs of disease, it is often more advanced and more challenging to treat.

Common Cancers in Cats

One of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in cats is lymphoma. It is associated with infection by feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus – cats infected with either of these viruses have a higher incidence of lymphoma than the general population of cats. Most commonly, lymphoma affects the intestinal wall and your cat will have vomiting and diarrhea and lose weight. This type of cancer responds well to treatment and many cats go into remission.

Oral cancers also occur reasonably frequently. These are often squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and can be very aggressive. You may have heard of SCC before; it is also a common problem in white cats. Their nose and ears, and even their eyelids can develop this type of cancer.

Fibrosarcoma is a cancer that can occur in the soft tissues of the body, including the muscles. It is often a very malignant tumor.

The other type of cancer that was once common in cats but is less so is the mammary gland tumor. This is seen less these days because more people have their cats spayed, and this helps to protect them from this disease.

Diagnosing Cancer in Cats

It's easy enough to see a lump on your cat's skin, or an ulcer on his nose. However, cancers on the inside of the body aren't as obvious. Often, the only symptom you'll see is that he isn't doing well. He may be off his food and losing weight or he may be vomiting. It's important that if your old cat isn't well, have him checked by your vet sooner rather than later. The earlier the treatment, the better the chance of a good outcome.

Treating Cancer in Cats

The treatment options for your cat are similar to those available for people. If possible, the bulk of the tumor should be surgically removed. After that, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is usually prescribed to treat any remaining cancer cells. Ideally your cat's cancer treatment should be managed by a specialist oncologist because they are more familiar with the latest treatments available.

The outcome of cancer treatment in your cat can vary depending on his age, the severity of the cancer and whether he has any concurrent disease. A quick diagnosis and prompt treatment can help him to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.

Article courtesy Dr Rosie Brown BVSc (Hons)

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