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Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

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.


There are many different forms of cancer, and the veterinary community has made great progress in the past few years. Today, we have treatment options for many forms of cancer that were not treatable for our pets even a few years ago. Still, we cannot cure all types of cancer and more work still needs to be done in this area.

Cancer is typically thought of as a disease of older cats and in many cases that is true. However, just as in people, cancer can strike a cat of any age.

What can you do to prevent cancer for your cat?

Naturally, not all types of cancer are preventable. However, feeding a high quality diet is a good start. There is quite a bit of evidence that fatty acids such as EPA and DHA in the diet may be helpful also. Avoiding pesticides and other known cancer-causing agents is advisable, where possible, as well.

Regular thorough physical examinations by your veterinarian are also a necessity for your cat.

As with many other diseases, cancer is most easily treated if it is detected early. At a minimum, annual examinations are recommended. Many veterinarians actually recommend twice yearly examinations, particularly for cats that are middle-aged to older.

In addition to a thorough physical examination, regular blood screening is also a good idea, particularly as your cat gets older. Blood screening can detect subtle changes in your cat’s health that may not be identifiable with an external examination alone.

  • A complete blood cell count (CBC) examines your cat’s red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. It can help detect anemia, dehydration, clotting abnormalities, infection, and more.
  • A blood chemistry profile examines kidney function, liver enzymes, protein levels in the blood, and glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. Electrolytes (such as sodium, calcium, and phosphorus) may also be measured as part of a blood chemistry profile.
  • A thyroid test measures your cat’s thyroid hormone level. It is used to detect abnormalities in your cat’s thyroid gland, the most common of which is feline hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid condition).

Observing your cat closely for signs of illness is also advisable.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Lumps and bumps on the skin
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive salivation
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Abnormal discharges from any part of your cat’s body
  • Abnormal odor from any part of your cat’s body
  • Abnormal defecation
  • Abnormal urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Certainly, cancer is not the only disease process that can cause these types of symptoms. However, any of these symptoms should prompt a visit to your veterinarian for further investigation.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Anna Hoychuk / via Shutterstock

Comments  1

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  • Diagnosis
    05/07/2012 07:31am

    Diagnosis can be a matter of tenacity as symptoms can be very subtle.

    My Winston had always had stellar litter box habits. His only symptom was urinating by the back door as opposed to the litter box.

    It took five trips to the doctor, doing tests beginning with non-invasive tests and finally doing a biopsy to find out he had lymphocytic lymphoma. With treatment, he had a good quality of life for 2 1/2 years.

    Louise's diagnosis was much quicker. The vet felt growths in her abdomen and immediately knew she had adenocarcinoma. Within a week the tumors had grown quite large and she left us 10 days after diagnosis.

    Darlene had many problems and we didn't know she had cancer until the necropsy. I wish we had thought to find out what kind of cancer she had. It wasn't the cancer that took her so treatment wouldn't have helped, but I wish we knew.

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