While cancer may not be as common in cats as it is in dogs, it can be harder to detect and more aggressive. Unlike dogs, there doesn’t seem to be breeds that are at increased risk of cancers. In fact, cats are more like horses in that they tend to hide disease well. Treating feline cancer is also tricky.
Types of Feline Cancer
One of the most common cancers seen in cats is lymphoma. A cat’s chance of developing lymphoma increases with exposure to the feline leukemia virus.
Another common cancer in cats is fibrosarcoma, or soft tissue sarcoma. Fibrosarcoma tumors develop in muscle or connective tissue. Some fibrosarcomas are associated with injections and vaccinations. Vaccine associated fibrosarcomas are typically very aggressive, and the tumors can invade surrounding tissue with tree root-like projections. This makes surgical excision difficult. These tumors can also be systemically aggressive with a high rate of metastatic spread.
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Cats also develop oral squamous cell carcinoma, which is similar to what people get. Lung, brain, nasal, mammary and liver tumors are less common but still occur.
It is especially critical with cats to watch them closely because it is difficult to spot a kitty’s distress. Besides lumps and bumps, vomiting, diarrhea and difficulty breathing may be warning signs in cats. Too, because cancers in cats are more aggressive than those seen in dogs, early detection and treatment are even more important. Some additional measures you can take to reduce the chance of your kitty developing cancer is to spay your female cat, thus reducing the chance of developing mammary cancer, and make sure that your cat is not at risk for exposure to the feline leukemia virus, thus decreasing the likelihood of developing lymphoma.
Treatments for Feline Cancer
As with cancers in people, surgical resection is the ‘go-to’ therapy for most canine, feline and equine cancers. Surgery can be curative if the lesions are small and benign and can also be used to debulk tumors in an effort to palliate the symptoms. Cytotoxic drugs can be used systemically and intra-tumorally, and radiation therapy may be the standard treatment of choice for some cancers. However, the clinical outcome with any type of treatment is usually determined by initial tumor burden (size and extent). Unfortunately, the overall survival rate for cats is poor for all of the above reasons, and historically, treatment advances for feline cancers have been slower than for dogs, with more research dollars going to canine cancers than to feline cancers. The need for new approaches that will add weapons to the feline cancer arsenal is clear. That is one reason we are so excited to be able to bring a side-effect-free treatment (IFx-VET) to cats with cancers.
Cats and horses have approximately 2.7 billion DNA base pairs in their bodies, while dogs have approximately 2.5 billion base pairs.