The 4 most common types of cancer found in domestic cats
Cats can suffer from cancer, just like other animals and people. The diagnosis of cancer in a pet is devastating; it’s the same as finding out any other family member has a serious illness. That's why owners should regularly take their pets to the vet so they can perform a checkup. Early detection of any kind of tumour helps the vets give a better prognosis, and means treatment options are more straightforward. The sooner the tumour is detected, the better. Owners can also check for symptoms at home—some can be nonspecific, so it’s always best to go to the vet whenever there’s any cause for concern.
Here are some of the symptoms that could indicate the presence of a tumour in cats:
- The presence of nodules (“lumps”) anywhere on the body: we should never think that, “it must be a ball of fat, or a cyst—it’ll go away on its own”. Even the mildest symptom should be evaluated by a vet who can thoroughly check whether there is any cause for concern. Only the vet will be able to decide whether or not they will need to perform a clinical intervention.
- Wounds that are not healing by themselves.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Vomiting or diarrhea.
- Reduced activity.
- Aggressiveness (often due to pain).
- For females, it’s very important that we habitually check their teats for nodules.
The 4 most common types of cancer found in domestic cats are:
- Lymphoma: a type of cancer that begins in the lymphocytes. This usually affects the entire body, especially targeting organs like the spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys, among others. It can affect cats of any age, sex or breed.
- Another is feline leukemia, caused by a virus that affects the cat’s immune system. While it’s not exactly a type of cancer, cats that develop the illness can be at a greater risk of developing lymphoma or fibrosarcoma.
- Cats can also suffer from mammary tumors, 90% of which are usually malignant. That’s why vets recommend you have your cat spayed when they’re young, as this procedure has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of mammary tumours.
- Other tumours that can be found in cats include squamous cell carcinoma, fibrosarcoma and melanoma.
A cat that has been diagnosed with cancer can be treated, but it’s up to the veterinary specialist to prescribe the best treatment for them. At the moment there are effective protocols in place for safe and effective chemotherapy, as well as surgical procedures that can increase the life expectancy and quality of life for our beloved companions.