Is My Cat With SCC in Pain?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses squamous cell carcinoma in cats.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: May 6, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: I was researching specifically pain associated with squamous cell carcinoma in cats and wondering what pain level cats experience.  My 14-year-old was just diagnosed. I don't know if she is in pain or not, is there a way one can tell. I don't want her to suffer unnecessarily and am already preparing myself for her departure.

A: I’m sorry to hear about your cat’s diagnosis. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a common oral tumor in cats. Its occurrence is often disastrous. Ninety-five percent of oral SCC cases are diagnosed only after the cat shows dramatic changes in appearance, such as swelling of the jaw or face, severe weight loss or blood in the mouth. Treatment for oral SCC is often unrewarding. We really have yet to identify any treatments that are reliably helpful to cats with SCC. Surgery offers the best chance for survival, but most of the time the SCC has progressed too far. If a SCC is removed surgically in its entirety, a cat may become one of the rare 5% of cats that beat this diagnosis. I suspect that your cat’s form of the disease is not surgically treatable.

It can be hard to assess just how much discomfort your cat might have. If your cat is still able to eat food and groom properly, she is probably doing OK. If the tumor is affecting her ability to close her mouth properly or to eat properly, it is probably time to consider euthanasia.  If you suspect your cat may be in pain, but can’t be sure, err on the cautious side and administer pain medication. Talk to your veterinarian about the non-steroidal and narcotic pain medications that are now available for cats. These may make your cat’s last few weeks much more comfortable.

See more articles by Arnold Plotnick, DVM>>

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Reader Comments

Ant    Chicago, IL

5/4/2012 10:05:54 PM

I have a cat that has oral squamous cell carcinoma. i strongly believe based on my cats unusual litter box and cleaning habits that his cancer is caused by clay based clumping cat litter. His daily mouth to litter contact was extremely high. I really wish i would have known this a year ago, it might have saved his life. Please tell as many cat owners as possible to keep their cats away from clumping cat litter.

Charlotte    Tulsa, OK

5/8/2011 4:57:29 PM

Very sad. Please admin pain meds.

Holly    Stouffville, ON

5/8/2011 3:23:25 PM

Aww! I hope everything goes well with your kitty! Thanks for the article.

karen    cheektowaga, NY

5/7/2011 11:38:34 AM

Interesting !!!

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