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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.


Preventing cancer for your feline friend may not be totally possible, and there may be some factors (like genetics) that are beyond your control. However, there are some things that you can control that may provide your cat some protection against cancer, as well as some other diseases.

Firstly, make sure your cat is getting good nutrition. A good diet can go a long ways towards keeping your cat healthy. Be sure his diet is well-balanced and complete, with high-quality ingredients. If you prepare your cat's meals yourself, be sure all of his nutritional needs are being met.

Next, make sure your cat stays lean. Obesity can predispose your cat to many different diseases, and cancer may be among these diseases. We know now that fat cells secrete hormones that can cause many undesirable effects. Do not overfeed your cat, and make sure he gets plenty of exercise by providing toys and other forms of interactive play.

Avoid exposing your cat to environmental poisons. Be cautious about using lawn chemicals, cleaning chemicals and other items that may contain cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) around your cat.

If the worst happens and your cat does develop cancer, early diagnosis can give him a much better chance of recovery. Learn to do a head to tail check of your cat and do it regularly. Look for the following:

  • Lumps and bumps on or under your cat's skin
  • Abnormal odors from your cat's mouth, ears or any other part of your cat's body
  • Abnormal discharges from any part of your cat's body, including blood, pus or any other abnormal substance
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty or pain when eating or difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Changes in your cat’s urinary or bowel habits
  • Limping or other evidence of pain while your cat is walking, running or jumping
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing

Needless to say, if you notice any of these symptoms, or your cat is otherwise not acting like himself, these symptoms should not ignored. Symptoms like these may or may not be an indication that your cat has cancer, but they are an indication that something is not right and that your cat should be checked by your veterinarian. The sooner the problem is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated, and the more likely that your cat can be cured.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Squid Media Advertising / via Shutterstock

Comments  16

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  • Litter Box Problems
    10/31/2011 06:42am

    My Winston was diagnosed with lymphocytic lymphoma due to a litter box problem. It took five trips to the doctor because he was acting normally otherwise.

    Since we found it early, with treatment, he had two more good years.

    I lost my Louise to adenocarcinoma. Sadly, this is a very fast growing cancer and she only got another 10 good days.

    Darlene had multiple problems over a two year period, but necropsy found that, on top of her failing kidneys and congestive heart failure, her abdomen was full of cancer. We had seen a couple of enlarged lymph nodes on ultrasound, but they really hadn't grown that much, so there was something else going on that we couldn't see.

  • 10/31/2011 09:34am

    Oh my goodness. You poor thing! Three pets suffering from cancer...I can't even imagine what that must have been like. It's so hard when we look after them, we do everything we can to keep them safe and then we can't protect them from something so insidious. I'm so sorry for your losses :(

  • 10/31/2011 07:45pm

    Thanks, Dr. Huston,

    I admit that it was a challenge to care for them, but worth every minute. Winston got two good years when median survival time is 18 months. He couldn't tolerate the full dosage of chemo, so he got half the "recommended dose." Should I mention that he wouldn't eat if he wasn't on Prednisolone? Yup, he turned diabetic, too. He sat through the ear sticks twice a day before he got his insulin. He also got fluids twice a day to assure he stayed hydrated.

    Bless his heart, he wasn't the sharpest pencil in the box. I really think he saw all the needles and pokes and pills and doctor visits as individual attention.

    We balanced Darlene's diuretics since she needed fluids for her CRF, but had to be careful so she didn't go into congestive heart failure again. It was always a worry.

    Caring for Winston and Darlene overlapped for a full year. What a handful!

    The Lovely Louise just never had a chance. The doctor found a couple of small lumps in her abdomen and within 10 days her belly was full of tumors. I was especially sad that there was nothing we could do to try and make her comfortable and give her more time.

    Losing each of them was hard, but they fought the good fight.

  • 11/01/2011 01:17am

    It sure sounds like you did everything you could for them, and then some. Unfortunately, some things are just beyond our medical capabilities. It's hard to lose them though, isn't it? :(

  • 11/01/2011 08:24pm

    You're so right - it's incredibly hard to let them go when the time has come. One always has to remember to do what's right for the critter as opposed to what you want.

    It seems a little ironic and cruel that you get SO close to them when you're providing so much nursing care and your schedule revolves around their needs. Then you lose them.

  • 11/01/2011 10:31pm

    I never thought about it quite that way before. You're right, it is ironic, isn't it!

  • 11/01/2011 11:09am

    They were so lucky to have you old broad.

  • 11/01/2011 08:25pm

    Thanks, rockjdog. I feel the same way about Rock. He's really lucky to have you!

  • My Roo May have Cancer
    10/31/2011 02:00pm

    I rescued Roo back in 2008, his elderly owner had fell down while feeding him one night and later died from her injuries. The daughter of the elderly lady moves into the house and blames Roo for her mothers death so she kicked Roo out and left him to fend for himself for over two years and then he met me. Roo was 6 pounds, he had severe pharyngitis, and enlarged kidney, teeth that were loose and just awful looking and he was severely malnourished, the vet recommended euthanasia but I couldn't do it to him. I took him to another vet who saw the life that was still there as I did, he is a sweet boy. We put him on antibiotics and cleaned him up and gave him lots of love and today he is a 12 pound cat.
    Roo suffers from stomatitis and had only 3 teeth left in his mouth. Three weeks ago, I noticed his right eye was swollen and thought it was a URI as he has had it before but then I noticed that the pupil in his right eye was dilated the other eye was still normal. Well I freaked out, I took him to the vet and she thought it was an abscess and said it's time to pull those three teeth, which we knew would have to happen at some point. During surgery she found no abscess but something else, she said it may be cancer because of the way it is spread out but she is really not sure. She did a biopsy and we are now waiting for the results. In the meantime my poor baby is in pain from teeth being extracted and still dealing with a swollen face and his eye looks awful with the third lid almost half way across his eye. He is on pain meds but he still feels so bad. I am trying to hang in there for results but it's difficult to see him this way. His mouth is better today, a little better. I am wondering if this eye thing is as painful as it looks? Last night he did jump on my bed for cuddles he did the belly up for belly rubs and that made me smile.
    Roo has had such a hard life but he has such a great attitude despite it all. I would be so sad without him, I want to anything I can do to prolong his life but I don't want to prolong his death. He deserves so much, we have had an amazing 3 years together, I want more but not at his expense. Maybe this won't be cancer, maybe I am speculating too much....but I don't think so.

    This was Roo at his time of rescue...


    This one I took a few months ago....


  • 10/31/2011 07:48pm

    Roo is a handsome dude. How lucky he was to have found you.

    Fingers crossed that things work out well for Roo (and you).

  • 11/01/2011 01:19am

    Roo is a beautiful cat! He reminds of my cat, Ebony, who has passed on now.

    I hope things work out well for both of you also!

  • 11/01/2011 08:41pm

    Biopsy results are back, Roo does not have cancer. Yeah! But he does still have the eye thing going on with Anisocoria and the third lid. I was doing research today because he is shaking his head and tilting it while sleeping, I am worried about an ear infection. His vet did start him on Clavamox yesterday so hopefully this will help. His mouth is healing wonderfully and he is back to eating as much as a small horse. LOL

    I am just so thankful he doesn't have cancer, I was very worried.

    Thank you.

  • 11/01/2011 08:45pm


    Thanks for sharing the good news!

    There's nothing better than a negative biopsy or boring bloodwork.

    Let us know if Roo's current problem resolves with antibiotics. *fingers crossed*

  • 11/01/2011 10:22pm

    WOO HOO!Thats great news!

  • 11/01/2011 10:33pm

    Good news!! Thanks for sharing it. Hopefully, Roo will be better very soon :)

  • Cancer prevention tips
    11/06/2011 12:49pm

    Great article Dr Lorie.
    I'm please to see you stress the goal of weight maintenance and reduction as a means of preventing some of the adverse endocrine/metabolic effects causes by excessive fat.
    Additionally, the avoidance of toxins is key due to cancer's multifactorial etiology. Your cat loving readers should consider the day to day toxins in the shared environment they have with their pet. Cigarette smoke, cleaning products, even pet grade foods (yes, that dry and canned cat food laden with protein/carbohydrate "meals" and "by products" can be rich in toxins) all have potential carcinogenic effects.
    Dr PM

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