Diagnosis And Treatment Of Cancer In Cats

A cat's body comprises countless cells that energize them, house DNA, and fulfill many roles, including immune defense.

When cells typically multiply and then die off, sustain damage, and continue to grow unchecked, they can form tumors, some of which may be malignant. However, early detection and intervention can empower cat owners to take control of their cat's health.

Every year, around 6 million cats in the United States are diagnosed with cancer. Of these, between 53 and 83% of tumors are identified as malignant. The prognosis of cat cancer depends on the type of cancer, its progression, and the cat's general health.

Diagnosis Of Cancer In Cats

Your veterinarian will first review your cat's full medical history. Before the visit, it's beneficial to record any symptoms you notice and photograph any visible abnormalities.

Your vet will conduct a comprehensive examination, including blood and urine tests. They may also suggest imaging tests like:

  • X-rays are used to examine your cat's chest, abdomen, or limbs.
  • Ultrasound, which provides real-time visuals of your cat's internal organs.
  • Endoscopy, where a tiny camera is inserted through the mouth or rectum to inspect the stomach or intestines.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) uses computers to create detailed cross-sectional images of various body parts.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) offers detailed, radiation-free images of your cat's body structure.

Although these imaging tests can reveal the presence of a tumor, they cannot specify the cancer type.

To further investigate, your vet might extract a sample from the tumor. This is done either through a fine needle aspirate (FNA), where a needle is used to withdraw cells from the tumor for microscopic examination, or a biopsy, where a portion of the tumor is surgically removed for a more detailed analysis. Biopsies are generally more conclusive and assist in predicting the tumor's behavior.

For cats that cannot be sedated or undergo anesthesia, there are alternative diagnostic procedures available. Advanced procedures like CT scans, MRIs, or biopsies may not be viable options, but your veterinarian can suggest other methods to ensure a comprehensive diagnosis.

Treatment Of Cancer In Cats

The possibility of curing your cat's cancer depends on several variables, such as:

  • The type of cancer
  • Any existing health conditions
  • The stage of the cancer
  • The size and location of the tumor

Your cat's veterinary team will work with you to craft an optimal treatment strategy, which might include:

  • Surgery: Often used to remove tumors accessible on the skin's surface or confined to one area.
  • Chemotherapy: Administered orally or via injection to target and kill cancer cells, particularly effective for spreading cancers.
  • Radiation Therapy: This method employs precise radiation beams to destroy cancer cells, and it is suitable for inoperable tumors.
  • Immunotherapy: A newer treatment in veterinary medicine, this leverages your cat's immune system to combat cancer.
  • Photodynamic Therapy: This treatment combines light-sensitive substances and light exposure to eliminate cancerous cells.

It's common for a combination of these treatments to be recommended. For instance, removing a tumor through surgery followed by chemotherapy might be suggested to ensure that all malignant cells are addressed.

In cases where a cat is not robust enough for aggressive treatment, palliative care may be considered to maintain comfort. This care could include pain relief, anti-inflammatory medications, specialized diets, fluid therapy, and potentially blood transfusions to support your cat's quality of life.

Management And Recovery Of Cancer In Cats

The recovery process and timeline for each cat after treatment can differ significantly. Your veterinarian will provide specific guidance and set expectations based on your cat's needs.

Here are several steps you can take to aid in your cat's recovery:

  • Create a calm, enclosed area with easy access to fresh water, food, a comfortable bed, and a litter box.
  • Monitor your cat closely to observe their progress and any changes in their behavior or health.
  • Help with your cat's daily activities, such as grooming and eating, if they struggle.
  • Adhere to all care instructions provided by your veterinarian.
  • Make sure that you attend all follow-up appointments to monitor your cat's recovery progress.

Maintaining a good quality of life is still possible for cats who are not suitable for aggressive treatments. If the quality of life deteriorates, humane euthanasia may be considered, and your veterinarian will guide you through this sensitive decision to ensure comfort for both you and your cat during the process.

During the recovery period, your veterinarian might suggest some items to have on hand, including:

  • Oral syringes for medication
  • A waterproof blanket to protect bedding
  • Pill pocket treats to ease medication intake
  • A soft recovery cone to prevent them from disturbing healing sites
  • Pet bathing wipes for easy cleaning


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