Cancer in Cats | Symptoms and Treatment

It’s the diagnosis that no pet parent wants to ever hear. That your cat has cancer.

While the news is heartbreaking, cancer in cats is becoming more common as our cats are living longer.

While cancer usually occurs in older cats, around 12 years old, it can affect cats of all ages, even those that are younger.

Cancer in Cats

cats with cancerCancer is more common in dogs than cats, but there are still a fair amount of cats who are affected.

With cats it harder to detect cancer, since cats are known to mask their illness.

Which is why when anything unusual occurs with your cat, it’s important to go see your vet.

Types of Cancer

Cats commonly get certain types of cancer:

  • Mammary Cancer: Breast cancer
  • Skin Cancer: Lumps and bumps on the cat’s body
  • Lymphoma:  usually occurs in the intestine

Lymphoma is the most common of the 3 types and is usually a result of the Feline Leukemia virus (FelV).

Symptoms

Not every cat will have the same symptoms when developing cancer, but the most common symptoms are the following:

  • Frequent Vomiting
  • Small lumps on the cat’s body
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Limping
  • Digestive issues

Of course, any of these symptoms can be indicative of another disease, such as diabetes in cats.

Causes

While there is not a specific cause of cancer, there are a few factors that can increase the chances of cancer occurring:

  • Infection
  • Overexposure to Sunlight (occurs more often in outdoor cats)
  • FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
  • FLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)
  • Cats that haven’t been spayed

Diagnosis

The earlier the cancer is discovered, the better and more effective the treatment is.

At home, you can always check your cat’s body for any bumps or lumps.

If you find any type of irregularity that is new, always check with your vet.

Your vet will want to do a thorough physical exam and bloodwork.

Depending on the location of cancer, your vet might schedule an ultrasound of your cat’s abdomen.

Your vet might also check for FLV or FIV to see if that might be the cause.

A biopsy is sometimes conducted, particularly if there is a lump or irregularity on your cat’s body.

Treatment Options

Just as in humans, cancer is treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Depending on where the cancer is located, a combination of the three treatments might be used.

Surgery

Surgery is always the first choice in treating cancer particularly if it is localized and caught early enough.

Any lump or bump found is usually removed surgically.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is commonly used to treat cats.

The good news is that unlike humans, chemotherapy has very few side effects in cats.

Chemotherapy may be given orally, directly into the tumor and comes in the form of very strong drugs that act to destroy the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is most often used in cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia or those that metastasized (spread) or are likely to do so.

Radiation

Radiation is sometimes used when cancer cannot be completely removed with surgery.

It can be used with or instead of chemotherapy.

Radiation is typically used for brain tumors or nasal tumors.

Radiation is usually administered in 16 to 20 treatment sessions over the course of two months.

In addition, your cat will need to go under anesthesia to make sure they stay still during each course of treatment.

Cost of Cancer

The diagnosis is really hard to hear emotionally and then the cost of treating cancer can certainly add up quickly.

Of course, the cost will differ according to where you live or if you go to see a specialist rather than your regular veterinarian.

The initial diagnosis and testing can run anywhere from $600 to $1,200.

Surgery can cost from $900 to $2,500 depending on the type of surgery performed.

The cost of chemotherapy is usually $2,500 to $3,000 and radiation can cost upwards of $6,000.

And, of course, this is just for a few sessions when the treatment can be ongoing.

Pet Insurance

If you enroll your cat in pet insurance prior to the cancer being detected, you will be very relieved.

With the costs of continued treatment and management, don’t be surprised if you’re paying anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.

BUT if you have enrolled in pet insurance, your vet or specialist bill will be reimbursed up to 90%.

Of course, you can’t know if your cat will get cancer, but there are many other common illnesses that cats can develop from kidney disease to diabetes.

And, while you do have to pay the monthly premiums, pet insurance will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Healthy Paws, for example, will help pay for the treatment and specialist care needed for cancer.

Of course, you need to enroll your kitty before any pre-existing conditions occur and the best time for that is when your cat is young.

Management

Depending on the type of cancer, if you catch the disease early enough, you could have many more year left with your beloved cat.

If you haven’t enrolled in pet insurance yet, our top cat insurance companies of 2019, is a great place to start.

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