By Dr. Tracy McFarland. Dr. McFarland has been a practicing veterinarian for 30 years, focusing exclusively on cats for the past 20 years. She also writes for Pets Best, a cat insurance agency.
Cats tend to hide their illnesses, making it difficult to detect cancers as early as possible. No one wants to admit their pet may have cancer, but the most surefire way to sense an illness is simply to observe. Ultimately, owners know their cat’s daily routine and behavior traits, so keeping an eye out for changes, is encouraged. If you feel there might be something wrong, trust your instincts and schedule an exam with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Two common types of cancer in cats:
The most common type of cancer found in cats, Lymphoma affects almost every part of the cat’s body including the kidneys, stomach, intestines, liver, spleen and even the spine. Besides weight loss, other symptoms include weakness, labored breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and swollen or enlarged lymph nodes. The standard treatment is chemotherapy, while that’s not an option for all cats, palliative therapy with injectable or oral cortisone can temporarily help achieve better quality of life for the cat.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer is most commonly found in white haired cats, because they are more susceptible to significant sun exposure. Symptoms include sores and scratches, typically found on the nose, eyelids, or ears. If diagnosed early, this form of cancer is extremely treatable and is usually cured with surgery. Squamous cell carcinomas can be found in the mouth, which can be much harder to detect. This can occur when a cat is grooming and comes into contact with cigarette smoke particles. Look for signs of drooling, facial swelling, weight loss and difficulty eating.
What to watch for:
without a change in feeding schedule or diet, sudden weight loss is a warning sign of something more serious. Although weight loss can be tied to other illnesses such as kidney, liver, or thyroid disease, it is also a common indicator of internal cancer.
Visible swelling or skin irritation
what may appear to be a scratch or small lesion can actually be a form of skin cancer. Keep your eye on all new sores. Sometimes a crust will form and fall off, while the sore remains on the skin; this is a common sign of skin cancer.
The earlier cancer is detected, the more treatment options are available for your feline family member to have a full recovery. Remember to trust your instincts and pay close attention to sudden changes in behavior, appearance, or appetite.