Cats are susceptible to many of the same diseases that can affect humans. Cancer is no exception. Cats can and do get cancer, albeit not as commonly as dogs and people. Unfortunately, in cats, cancer tends to be more aggressive.
Obviously, not all cases of cancer can be prevented. There is likely a genetic component involved that makes some cats more susceptible. However, there are some things that the average cat owner can do to help prevent cancer for many cats. Let’s talk about a few of those preventive measures.
Spaying/neutering is something that is recommended for all cats not used for breeding, for reasons of population control. However, for female cats, being spayed at a young age will significantly decrease the cat’s chances of developing mammary cancer, or breast tumors. Ideally, female cats should be spayed prior to the first heat cycle. Doing so will nearly eradicate the potential for breast cancer.
Feeding your cat a high quality diet is important for many reasons. Such as a diet will help maintain your cat’s health and will strengthen your cat’s immune system. There is evidence that fatty acids in the diet, such as EPA and DHA, may be helpful in both preventing cancer and in feeding cats that have cancer.
While a complete and balanced diet is essential, overfeeding should be avoided. Endocrinologists now recognize that fat is part of the endocrine system, secreting hormones and other substances that can have a number of undesirable effects on the body, including increasing inflammatory responses. Obesity may make your cat more prone to cancer of various types.
Secondhand smoke can affect your cat’s lungs and has been implicated as a potential contributing factor in cancer, just as it is in people. At a minimum, you should avoid smoking around your pet. Ideally, the risk to your pet (and the rest of your family) will provide the encouragement needed for pet owners that are smokers to stop smoking all together.
Use household and lawn chemicals with caution. Ideally, your cat will go outdoors only when supervised and will either be on a leash or in a catio. Either way, these cats can still be exposed to lawn chemicals if they are applied to the area your cat frequents. Avoid using pesticides and other known cancer-causing agents both on your lawn and in your home. Consult your veterinarian for help choosing an appropriate parasite prevention program for your cat, using medications that have a proven track record for safety and efficacy.
Viruses such as the feline leukemia virus and the feline immunodeficiency virus can be potential causes of cancer as well. Have your cat tested for these diseases. Testing is simple and easy, and requires only a few drops of blood.
Regular veterinary examinations are a requirement for all cats. Early detection and treatment of cancer provides more a better chance for a successful outcome if the worst happens and cancer is detected. The same is true for many of types of diseases as well.
Dr. Lorie Huston
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