Cancer In Cats -- What You Should Know About Feline Cancer
Did you know that the leading cause of death in older cats is feline cancer? As our kitties are living longer, they're becoming more susceptible to feline tumors. Here's what every person owned by a cat should know about this dreaded disease.
What Exactly Is Cancer?
Cancer is unrestrained cell growth. Every cell in your body wears out sooner or later. As these old cells die off, new ones are produced to replace them. Normally new cell growth is restrained by the body. But sometimes a switch gets turned on somehow, which leads cells to reproduce uncontrollably. This leads to the growth of tumors.
There are many reasons that cells can grow out of control. Exposure to chemicals or radiation is one factor. These are called carcinogens, and their effects are cumulative over your pet's lifetime. This explains why cancer is seen more often in older pets.
Certain viruses have also been associated with cancerous tumors in cats.
You may hear different words used to describe cancer. "Neoplasia" means new growth, and "neoplasm" means "tumor." Tumors in cats may be benign, which means they don't spread to other organs. A benign tumor, however, can still grow into the surrounding areas and cause problems.
Malignant tumors often spread throughout the body by means of the lymphatic system or the bloodstream. When a malignant tumor spreads, this process is called "metastasis."
What Are The Most Common Kinds of Feline Cancer?
Cats can get many different kinds of cancer, but the ones that most commonly affect kitties are lymphosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and mammary (breast) cancer.
Lymphosarcoma in cats may be found in kitties of any age. It used to be more common in younger cats who were infected with feline leukemia. But now that more cats are being vaccinated, fewer younger cats are being affected. Chemotherapy for cats is often used to treat feline lymphosarcoma.
Tumors in cats may also be caused by feline squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), especially skin tumors. White cats are more susceptible to this type of skin cancer, since they don't have pigment to protect their ears from the sun's rays. These tumors usually show up around the age of 12. With treatment, the outlook is good for most cats with skin cancer.
SCC also causes oral cancer in cats. Swelling of the face or jaw, bleeding from the mouth, and weight loss are symptoms to watch for. Sadly, this type of cancer is often not discovered until it's already in advanced stages, when treatment options are few.
Feline breast cancer is often seen in older females. Siamese cats are especially prone to mammary tumors. These tumors are usually malignant, and they usually spread quickly other glands in the body, and also to the lungs. When this happens, the outlook is not good.
Know The Warning Signs Of Feline Cancer
New treatments for cancer in cats are being developed all the time, but any treatment is most successful when the cancer is found in its earliest stages. Anyone who lives with a kitty should know the warning signs of cancer in felines:
- Sudden weight loss
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing food
- Bleeding from the mouth or any other part of the body
- Unusual lumps or bumps
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Bad breath
Sick cats tend to hide themselves away. If your formerly friendly, outgoing pet suddenly turns into a recluse or becomes grouchy, he may be ill.
Do your kitty a favor, and be watchful for the signs of cancer in cats.
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