How do cats get cancer?

The big C is a dreaded word. A vet’s cancer diagnosis is virtually a death sentence for the pet. Although cancer in cats is not as prevalent as cancer in dogs, this dreaded disease is still one of the leading causes of deaths in cats. Some forms of cancer are genetically influenced. The pet’s exposure to carcinogens in the environment increases the risks that the pet will get this devastating disease. One reason why vaccination protocols were changed is due to the fact the development of fibrosarcoma is associated with injections and vaccinations. Cats that chronically suffer from viral diseases like Feline Leukemia Virus are at a higher risk of getting fibrosarcomas, lymphomas and other types of cancer.

Studies on feline cancer treatments have made it possible for cat owners to have other options rather than the definitive remedy of having the pet euthanized to save it from further suffering. Full recovery would depend on early detection and early treatment. However, cats are adept at hiding their illness making it difficult for cat parents to get treatments for the pet. Aside from knowing the telltale symptoms of the disease, a cat owner can give the pet the gift of good long life by having a fair amount of knowledge how cancer develops in cats to be able to undertake preventive measures that will save the pet from this life threatening disease.

Lymphoma is a common type of feline cancer. In 100,000 cats, 200 are affected by this type of cancer. Cats that have contracted feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or were infected by the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) can get this form of cancer. The most effective way of preventing the development of tumors in the cat’s lymph nodes is by vaccinating the pet against the virus. Vaccination is the cat’s first line of defense against common feline diseases. Unfortunately, another type of feline cancer is associated with feline vaccination. A lot of cat owners would hesitate to have the pet vaccinated fearing that the shots would cause the pet to get vaccine associated sarcoma (VAS). A malignant tumor would develop at the site of injection. Fibrosarcoma is an aggressive malignant growth that would develop in cat’s fibrous connective tissues. Although associated with vaccination, this type of cancer is prevalent in older cats that were not vaccinated. Younger cats can get this type of cancer from a mutant from of feline sarcoma virus. Squamous cell carcinoma is particularly common in white cats. Affected cats would have wounds on the nose and ears that would not heal. Cats would get this kind of cancer from prolonged exposure to sunlight. Squamous cell carcinoma can also develop on the tongue, gums, lips and tonsils of the cat. The development of this cancer is associated with the cat’s extensive grooming routine. The tongue that is used by cats to groom is exposed to carcinogens on the animal’s hair.

A cat suspected to have any type of cancer would need to have blood tests and undergo biopsy and imaging studies. Once the condition of the cat is diagnosed, common treatments would be a surgical procedure to completely remove the tumor, radiation therapy for surface tumors where surgery is not viable. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hormone therapy are other treatment options. Owners can do something to prevent the pet from getting cancer. Good well balanced diet is the foundation of the cat’s health. Cancer and any other health concerns can be prevented by providing the pet with the kind of diet specific to the needs of cats. Cats are obligate carnivores. These animals would need to have a meat based diet. Recent studies have linked cancer development as well as other degenerative diseases to the commercial dry food diet of cats. This is why more and more cat owners have shifted to raw meat diet for the pets.