Cancer is one of the most harrowing words of the last few centuries and something that we dread to hear. Sadly, it is not just humans that can be affected by this deadly condition. Studies have shown that as many as 1 in 5 cats will develop cancer during their lifetime. Unfortunately, the older your feline furbaby gets, the more likely she is to suffer from some form of cancer and research indicates that by age 10, there is a 50/50 chance your kitty will be diagnosed with, or be unknowingly battling, cancer.
Cancer is characterized by the presence and unprecedented growth of abnormal body cells. It is not always clear why cancer develops, but when it does, it may grow and spread very slowly, or become aggressive and attack your feline’s body relentlessly. There are some types of cancer in cats that are more commonly seen than others. These include:
- Skin tumors
- Breast tumors
- Cancer of the white blood cells (leukaemia or lymphoma). However, the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) vaccine actually helps to protect cats against certain forms of lymphoma, so by getting your furbaby vaccinated, you can reduce her risk of developing this type of cancer.
However, there are countless other varieties of cancer out there and there is no guarantee which, if any, will affect your precious pet.
Early diagnosis of cancer is key
One of the biggest challenges in dealing with cancer in a senior pet is that her health and well-being is already compromised. By the time she reaches her golden years, your older cat’s health has already started to deteriorate and body functions that could easily be taken for granted, such as a strong immune system, may not be as effective as they once were. This can mean several things. Not only may it make it easier for the cancer to take hold, but the effects that your feline experiences may be much worse, as might the damage to her body. There is also every chance that the cancer will spread more quickly, and this can make her situation much harder to treat.
The earlier your cat’s cancer is diagnosed, the better her treatment options are and the more likely it is that the treatment will be successful. This could make all the difference to her quality of life during her senior years, as well as how much longer you have with your precious pet.
Common signs of cancer in senior cats
It is important to remember that no two cats are the same and as such, exactly how your furbaby will be affected by cancer can vary tremendously, not least depending on which type of cancer she suffers from. Nevertheless, while she will try and mask her symptoms for a while, eventually she will be unable to hide them. When this happens, there will be some common signs of cancer that you can look out for. These include:
- A lump that doesn’t go away, or changes in shape and/or size.
- A wound or sore that doesn’t heal.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Loss of appetite that persists.
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits.
- Difficulty eating or swallowing.
- Problems urinating or defecating.
- Bleeding or abnormal discharge from part of the body.
- Sudden lameness or lethargy.
- Foul odor around your pet.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, particularly if they are in combination with one another, then it is advisable to seek the advice of your veterinarian as soon as possible. It may not be that your cat has cancer at all, but as we know, early identification of any potential health problem will improve the likely outcome for your senior cat. For this reason, regular wellness examinations are also recommended. These track the complete health profile of your cat and will detect other potential medical conditions, as well as cancer.
Cancer may be more common in senior cats, but with prompt diagnosis and treatment you can increase the chances of survival for your beloved furry feline. If you have any questions or concerns about cancers in senior cats, or if you would like to schedule an appointment for us to examine your older feline, please contact our veterinary clinic in Nashville, TN.