Be Alert for Signs of Cancer in Cat

VPI seeks to raise awareness about the disease throughout November.

Posted: Nov. 25, 2008, 3 a.m. EST

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Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), to encourage better awareness of pet cancer, sponsors Pet Cancer Awareness Month throughout November. “Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in pets,” said Dr. Carol McConnell of VPI, based in Brea, Calif. “Roughly one in four pets will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives.”

Cancer can be particularly devastating to cats, who often hide symptoms of their illnesses until it’s too late to treat the disease. Cats also are more difficult to diagnose than dogs, according to Mona P. Rosenberg, DVM, chief of staff at Veterinary Cancer Group in Los Angeles and Tustin, Calif.

Common types of cancers in pets include mammary gland or breast cancer; head and neck tumors, including those in the mouth and nose; lymphoma, characterized by enlargement of one or many lymph nodes in the animal’s body; abdominal tumors; and bone tumors. Cancer accounts for almost half the deaths of pets over 10 years of age, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Fortunately, cat owners can look for symptoms that will help them catch cancer early. Rosenberg recommended the following:

  • “Be aware of what’s normal for your pet,” she said. As an example, she said a cat that vomits a hairball once a week all its life may not raise concern, but if the frequency increases, there may be a problem.
  • Look for lumps or bumps that persist longer than a week. Cancers in pets often manifest themselves as neoplasms, or abnormal growths on the animal’s body.
  • Be aware of any offensive odors, especially from your cat’s mouth, nose or ears.
  • Look for any difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating; pay attention if your cat has difficulty eating or swallowing, too.
  • Take notice if your cat starts losing weight, drinking more water than normal or has a wound that won’t heal.

Have your cat examined by a veterinarian if it shows any of these symptoms. “Don’t put your head in the sand,” Rosenberg said. “Visiting your general practitioner vet is the best line of defense to have those things checked.”

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Reader Comments

SheriDawn    NAMPA, ID

6/17/2011 11:21:51 PM

My cat is only 7 years old. After all this blood testing, x-rays and many other tests, the vet seems to think my kitty has Lymphoma in the intestine or stomach. We have already spent $400 on Zoe this month. From what I understand, the vet has suspected Lymphoma from the very beginning. I wish they would have told me the suspicion before we went through all these tests. Now I cannot afford to pay for any further treatment because we live off Disability and we are at tight ends. For those of you who are able to afford better care for your pet, more power to you. I only wish we could afford further treatment for Zoe. She is a very sweet skittish cat who has a very close bond with me.

LMW    near Philly, PA

12/14/2008 4:46:57 PM

I am terrified!! A few minutes ago I found a few lumps near the mammary glands on my 13 yr old cat during a tummy rub. They weren't there last week. I came here to get more info & I'm calling the vet tomorrow. My bro lost his cat 2 yrs ago to lymphoma & a gal pal just lost hers to cancer.I hope my cat doesn't have cancer.Pray for my kitty,please !

CLC    Denver, CO

12/2/2008 9:23:55 AM

If you have a female cat and she develops lumps in her mammery area, make sure you have your veterinarian test the lumps right away. My tabby, Tedi, developed such a lump and I was told "it's just a harmless cyst, common in spayed females" and they drained it, but told me it would probably come back, so not to worry. At her next exam, they noticed the lump again and tested her. It was cancer. Luckily she was just fine after surgery, with no treatments, but I was much more insistent with my veterinarian after that about testing. Tedi developed cancer again at 14, and after another successful surgery, went on to live another four years before we lost her to acute renal failure at 18. I never regretted the surgeries, only that I didn't insist on testing the first time she developed a lump, despite what the veterinarian had said.

Rollie    Bristow, VA

11/25/2008 6:16:04 PM

We have two new kittens. Thanks for the heads up on what to look out for.

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