Cancer is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many people. Unfortunately, our pets can be affected by cancer as well.
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
- 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
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