There might come a time in your cat’s life when you notice that he has lost weight and energy, shows signs of digestive malaise, or has trouble breathing or other physical difficulties. You should act on your intuitive belief that there could be a problem and request a thorough physical examination (including imaging testing, if warranted). In about half the cats over 10 years of age, the sad diagnosis is cancer.
“Pets are increasingly thought of as members of the family, so the diagnosis of cancer does inspire fear,” says Gerald Post, DVM, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Diplomate, with the Veterinary Oncology and Hematology Center in Norwalk, Conn. When veterinary oncologists discuss a pet’s cancer diagnosis with their clients, much of that time is spent trying to dispel those fears, he says.
More than 200 types of feline tissue and/or organ cancer have been identified. The cancer rate for cats is less than that seen in dogs. Unfortunately, 50 to 80% of feline cancers (especially oral squamous cell carcinoma) are deemed terminal.
Types of Treatment
When treating terminal cancer, both traditional and oncology veterinarians focus on increasing the cat’s quality of life and survival time, minimizing negative side effects implicit in the treatment, and decreasing the baseline pain and suffering of the cat.
Treatment options depend on the type, site and extent of the cancer. “It is key to provide pet care that is manageable from emotional, physical and time-management standpoints in the comfort zone of the client,” says Kathy Mitchener, DVM, of Angel Care Cancer Clinic for Animals in Memphis, Tenn.
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