Conscious Cat

October 24, 2011 93 Comments

Chemotherapy for cats

Posted by Ingrid

Feebee cat in blue chair

While cancer in cats is not as common as it in dogs, it is still one of the leading causes of death in older cats. According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States along. And because cats are masters at masking illness, it is often harder to detect.

Cancer used to be a death sentence for cats, but recent advances in feline cancer research have made treatment possible in many cases. Just like with human cancers, early detection is key to successful treatment.

Treatment options for cats are almost as varied as treatment options for human cancers, and will depend on the type of cancer. Surgery is the most common treatment for any lumps or growths that need to be removed. In some cases, surgery can be curative. Other cancers may require chemotherapy or radiation.

Chemotherapy uses drugs with the objective to kill cancer cells with the least possible amount of damage to normal, healthy cells. In human medicine, the goal of chemotherapy is to achieve a cure. In cats, chemotherapy is aimed at controlling the disease and achieving a period of remission for the cat. Chemotherapy is typically used for cancers that affect multiple sites. Lymphoma is the most common form of feline cancer that is treated with chemotherapy. The drugs used in veterinary chemotherapy are frequently the same drugs used in human medicine.

Most cats tolerate chemotherapy well. Some cats may experience side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea or poor appetite, but these side effects are usually mild and can be managed with supportive care. Only a very small number of cats on chemotherapy will require hospitalization due to the side effects of chemotherapy. Unlike humans, cats will not lose all their hair. Most cats will lose their whiskers, and shaved hair will be slow to grow back, but substantial hair loss is uncommon.

It is important to support your cat’s immune system while she is undergoing chemotherapy. One of the foundations of a healthy immune system is diet. Typically, veterinarians recommend a high protein, low carb, moderate fat diet for pets with cancer. A high quality grain-free canned diet will probably be your best choice for your feline cancer patient.

Even though I’m a proponent of raw feeding, I’m on the fence as to whether raw diets are appropriate for cats with cancer. On the one hand, there are numerous anecdotal reports of miracle cures when pets with cancer were fed a raw diet, on the other hand, I don’t know whether feeding a raw diet to an immunocompromised pet is necessarily a good idea. Check with a veterinarian who is familiar with raw feeding whether a raw diet is appropriate for your cat while she is undergoing chemotherapy.

Supplements and herbs can provide immune system support during treatment. Probiotics not only help maintain a healthy gut flora, but also boost the immune system. Anti-oxidants and increased amounts of omega-3-fatty acids may also be indicated. Check with your veterinarian to determine which supplements are indicated for your cat.

Supportive therapies such as acupuncture, Reiki or other forms of energy healing can support your cat through her treatment. These therapies will not interfere with conventional medical treatment.

How will you know whether chemotherapy was successful? A cat in remission doesn’t look any different from a cancer-free cat. Typically, a successful remission means that lymphnodes will go down to normal size, and if there were any signs of illness that were related to the cancer, they will disappear. Remission can last anywhere from weeks to month, and for some lucky cats, even several years.

My personal experience with feline cancer was with my first cat, Feebee. He was diagnosed with intestinal lymphoma when he was 15 years old. He tolerated his chemotherapy protocol of a combination of Vincristine injections and oral Cytoxan and prednisone well. He would be a little subdued for about 24 hours following treatment. His appetite wasn’t that great during that period, and he slept a lot more than usual, but the rest of the time, his quality of life was good.

After seven months, he stopped responding to the chemotherapy. My vet gave me the option of continuing with more aggressive drugs with the potential for more severe side effects. I elected euthanasia. My little man confirmed that I made the right decision: he died in my arms while my vet was on the way to my house.

Being faced with a cancer diagnosis is a devastating blow for cat parents. Making a decision about treatment is as individual as the affected cat and her human. There are no hard and fast rules. The ultimate goal of any decision is to provide good quality of life for the cat for as long as possible.

Have any of your cats undergone chemotherapy? What was your experience?

Photo ©Ingrid King

Related reading:

Cats and cancer

Making medical decisions for your cat

Dr. Goodpet

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestShare

93 Responses to “Chemotherapy for cats”

  1. Ingrid, great topic. I was told a long time ago that cats respond better to chemo than dogs do. So when Rags was diagnosed with Lymphoma and was given 4-8 weeks to live if he didn’t have chemo and 4-8 months if he did, I went the chemo route. He had an awesome caring vet taking care of him – Michael Wasmer at Mission Med Vet in Mission, KS. Dr. Wasmer worked closely with one of the top feline oncologists in the country, Dr. Claudia Barton at Texas A&M University as to the proper protocol for Rags’ Lymphoma. You can read more about it here: http://www.floppycats.com/rags-lymphoma.html

    By the way – Rags lived another 3.25 years after his chemo at age 16.

    • Ingrid says:

      That’s wonderful that Rags responded so well to his treatment, Jenny.

      • Jenn says:

        what a great story! my cat was diagnosed with lymphoma two weeks ago. he’s 15 years old. he has a large mass in his stomach area. chemo starts tomorrow. i’m very worried about the side effects, but i’m going to do what i can to keep my cat healthy and living a good life. he seems to be in good spirits today. i hope his cancer can go into remission. i love my cat Alex very much!

        • Ingrid says:

          I’m sorry to hear about Alex, Jenn, but hopefully, he will respond to the chemotherapy. Thankfully, side effects for most cats are minimal. Best wishes to both of you!

          • Jenn says:

            My alex passed away in the early morning of april 6. He had a strike and was brain dead. We put him down. I dont know why or how it happened. Vet seems to think lymphoma may have been in his brain as well.

          • Ingrid says:

            I’m so sorry about Alex, Jenn. I had hoped you would have more time with him. My heart goes out to you.

  2. Ingrid, I’m glad you tackled the big “C”. It’s a subject that may be uncomfortable for some but invaluable to aware of. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to add: if cats are spayed before their first heat they greatly reduce their chances of contracting breast cancer.

  3. Laurie says:

    I agree with the others commenting, thank you for discussing cancer and chemotherapy in cats. Many people appear to be under the misconception that chemotherapy in cats is similar to the experience of chemo in humans. As you point out, it isn’t!

    Our first rescue kitty, Lazlo, at the age of nine, was just recently diagnosed with lymphoma (his is a “massive” mass in his stomach that fortunately had not spread). We were not expecting that news, and yes, it was devastating. Surgery was not an option; his vet referred us to an oncologist. I received a number of notes saying, “I’d never put my cat through that!” Two months into treatment, ultrasound indicates Lazlo’s lymph nodes have returned to normal size, and his tumor has shrunk 40%.

    Before treatment, he was clearly a sick little guy. With an anti-nausea medication and his treatment protocol (which also includes pred), he is doing great! He’s back to a healthy weight and clearly feels like… Lazlo! He’s putting the other kitties down with just his stare. He’s walking with his jaunty strut, playing, grooming, and loving being brushed. It is truly a delight.

    We do support him with a probiotic. Our oncologist informed us that antioxidants can interfere with chemotherapy, so we don’t have him on any other supplements.

    We don’t know how much time we’ll have with Lazlo. We simply view each day as a gift, and ensure he enjoys each and every day. This is the first time we’ve had to face the mortality of one of our rescue babies, and now we make sure to stop and take the time to appreciate each and every one of them every day.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m glad Lazlo is responding so well to his chemotherapy, Laurie. Best wishes for a very very long remission! Like you said, every day is a gift after a cancer diagnosis.

  4. Jennifer Hendee says:

    Thank you for sharing this information, Ingrid. Many owners recoil in horror when I mention chemotherapy as their perception is that of what human cancer patients may experience. Our goals are different in veterinary medicine: quality of life is ultimate, not quantity despite any cost.

    Jen Hendee DVM

    • Ingrid says:

      That’s a great way of putting it, Jen: “quality of life is ultimate.” I think once pet owners understand that, they are much more willing to consider chemotherapy as a viable treatment option.

  5. Thank you for this information regarding such a devastating cat disease. It’s certainly true that they can be made comfortable, or recover in many cases.

    Hugs to all who have lost pets to this horrible disease. May they find a cure very soon.

  6. Angela says:

    My cat Tabitha has a reoccuring breat cancer lump(s). We have done 5 operations now over the last few years. The last one left her without the use of one of her paws. (Though she is not slowed down at all! :)). Obviously, I will not be doing anymore operations (my vet agrees) since the lumps are so deep. The tumors have come back much faster this time and are bigger than before; however, they are in the same area. She has also lost weight. Other than the tumors, she is her regular self–shiny eyes and fur, eating and drinking normally, racing down the hallway, chasing her tail, cuddling with me at night. However, she has been estimated to have about 6 months to live. I found her about 10 years ago (dumped) and she was pregnant at the time. She is at least 12 years old in my opinion, but she acts like a young cat. I, of course, want her to live as long as possible. However, I want her to have the best quality of life possible. Unfortunately, I can’t really afford to spend THOUSANDS of dollars on her treatment. What are the typical odds for a cat like this that the cancer has quite possibly not spread yet? I’m not sure what treatment to pursue at this point.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m sorry about Tabitha’s diagnosis, but it sounds like she’s doing really well. I can’t answer your question about the odds, or treatment options. They would be determined by the exact kind of cancer she has, and even then, a prognosis is just a guess. Nobody can say for sure.

      You may want to consider some holistic therapies, if you’re not already doing that. Supplements to support her immune system, Reiki, acupuncture, herbal remedies – all of these can possibly help to prolong her life. For anything other than Reiki, which has no known side effects and doesn’t interfer with either conventional or alternative treatments, I would work with a holistic vet.

      Most of all, I encourage you to enjoy every moment you have with her.

      • Angela says:

        Thank you so much for your response. I had not thought of the holistic treatment, but I will ask my vet about it. She is a spectacular vet!
        I just am not sure whether chemotherapy would be a good option since she was still so “well”. It would cost over $400 just to visit the oncologist and get xrays/bloodwork. Then we decide whether the $2000 or $5000 treatment would have good odds. Just not sure it’s worth the odds. If its something that would be likely to help significantly and not cause her to feel bad, I would consider some kind of treatment–although the $5000 is a bit on the ridiculous side. Is this a typical fee for cancer treatment?

        • Ingrid says:

          It depends on the types of drugs used and the length of treatment. $5000 does seem awfully high to me for chemotherapy, but I suppose it’s possible. Perhaps it would be worth having a consult with an oncologist to get more information?

  7. Angela says:

    That’s what I am thinking of doing. My vet is actually having her dog treated at the same location and she said she would try to get me some information on her next visit. She already sent Tabitha’s file over. I absolutely love Tabitha! She is the best pet I have ever had! Follows me everywhere and I will do everything I can to help her. I can’t imagine why anyone would throw such a lovely cat away–but glad I got to have her. I’ll keep you updated on her progress and what treatments we do/don’t do. Thanks so much for your help!

  8. george says:

    my kitty Bandy had a tumor removed it was malignant the Vet said the tumor was completely removed – but he suggested that chemo might be a good idea to get rid of the possible invisible tumor cells that may have spread elsewhere – bandy is 13 a beauty a tough cat id like to have her around for a long time

  9. Julie says:

    Hi Ingrid, found your site whilst googling feline Lymphoma. Our 6 year old girl Lolly has a large tumor confirmed as Lymphoma. She has lost so much weight and has been so poorly, we have been devastated by the news as she is our absolute joy. We have started her on Chemo and she is responding beautifully, we are having to give her a whole array of tablets to aid her appetite and keep her eating but its working ok. At first we found it really hard to pill her and she really got upset with us but we have now learned the best way to do it and its easier for her and us. She even went awol last weekend which totally freaked me out as i was convinced she had crawled off to die somewhere. 12 hours later she strolled in and ate her own bodyweight in food, looked at us as if to say ‘what?, whats the big deal?!’ Each day is a bonus, the vet is very caring and knowledgeable and is open and frank about the prognosis but we are staying positive and praying that she will reach a remission. She is so young and has never been ill in her life, not one day. She has so much energy and is so much fun to be with, her sense of humour is immense and she is in tune with me. I work from home and she is my constant companion, i cannot bear to think she will not be here for the next few years. I hoped that we would enjoy her into her old age and i still hope that but I am realistic enough to know that we may lose her to this. I have two other cats, both boys one is her son. I love all my cats so much, they are the most amzing creatures, if you understand a cat you can understand anyone! I am sharing this story for anyone who is staring feline lymphoma in the face and i will update on Lolly’s story when I can. Right now she is fighting it and she is coping, she is coping better than we are! She has come back from the brink of death since starting the chemo just 2 weeks ago and we are praying she continues to fight it, at 6 she is still a baby. Her bones are sticking out and she is shaved here and there from the scans and ultrasound but she is bright, feisty and beautiful. Today she went off and came back with a slow worm, my husband was cross but for once i wasnt, if she felt like hunting then she must be feeling better! Sorry wildlife but your not safe just yet! So to anyone who has just been dealt that bitter blow, its hard, its heartbreaking but for every day that she fights this and for every cuddle she gives me and every purr and wink, I know that by going through with the chemo, she has every chance to live a longer and happier life than without. As soon as she stops responding, then we will let her go but I will fight for her life as if it was my own. x

    • Ingrid says:

      It sounds like Lolly is responding beautifully, Julie. It’s so hard to stay in the moment and not get ahead of ourselves when we’re faced with a diagnosis like this, but it sounds like you’re finding your way. Treasure every cuddle, purr and wink with her. Best wishes to both of you, and please keep us updated!

      • Julie says:

        Thanks Ingrid, this morning her vet has said the lump has reduced so much that he can hardly feel it! Thats just 2 weeks of chemo, she’s got a good blood white cell count today so they are giving her more chemo as i type this. Her appetite is huge and it was so hard denying her food this morning and she even tried to get my cereal, which she never does as she has impeccable manners. He weighed her and she is 2.8kg so a long way to go back to her normal 3.8kg, she is very small. If she can keep the appetite up and keep eating well she has a good chance. I am so happy today, the 45 minute drive to the vets in the pouring rain and her whaling away was worth it. Lets hope she can keep this up, thanks for your support, means everything xx

        • Ingrid says:

          I’m so happy to hear she’s doing so well, Julie!

          • Julie says:

            Hi Ingrid, just thought I would update you on Lolly’s progress. She has gained a whole pound in weight in 7 days! Her tumor is almost completely gone, the vet cannot feel anything other than a very small lump that he thought might even have been her appendix and asked if she had eaten (which she had). Last week her blood count showed she was anemic so we have been giving her iron and anti-biotics as the anaemia could have been due to an underlying flea bite allergy rather than a bleed. She’s been in overnight at the vets so they can do a blood test and then treat her today with more chemo if the anaemia is under control. We are hopeful that this good run continues and she improves to the point of remission. The vet actually said he thought she was in remission but we wont know for sure for a while yet. The vet is amazing, a spanish guy with so much knowledge and passion, he calls me regulalrly to see how she is and is the best vet for miles so we are so lucky to have a specialist on our doorstep. Had to take Lolly’s son Percy to the vets yesterday with s shoulder wound (probably a fight) so he is on anti-biotics now too! Its like an animal hospital here! My oldest cat Stanley (12) is so far the only one missing out on a vet visit, no doubt he will address that one once he sees how much attention the other two are getting! Hope you’re well? Thanks again x

          • Ingrid says:

            Thanks for the update on Lolly, Julie – that’s wonderful news! Sorry about Percy. Hopefully, Stanley won’t be next with a vet visit, you’ve got your hands full as it is!

    • Nigel says:

      Julie, thank you for sharing that story. We were just felt that blow less then 24 hours ago by our vet. My handsome sweet 11 year old Puddles was just diagnosed with Intestinal Lymphoma. I believe I am still in shock at this point. I woke up this morning way earlier then usual from a bad dream about his prognosis and ran to find him and just pet him for a while. He is the sweetest animal I’ve ever met and as with you he and I are very in tune with each other. We talk through our eyes and just about never wake up or go to bed without a good petting! The weird thing about all this is how dumbfounded the vets are by it. All of his blood test show he is perfectly healthy and he has not lost a single pound. His appetite is still the same and the only changes you see are normal changes with old age. We just went in for his senior wellness physical and I let them know he had vomited 4 times last week. All of a sudden they come back in the room and said they felt a mass in his intestines. I had them run a full ultrasound and they looked at his cells under the microscope to verify. They still seemed as shocked as I am about it. We have scheduled an appt for the oncologist for Friday to do the final validation and figure out treatment options. I was not nor am I prepared for this. We have been inseparable since he was 8 weeks old when I first picked him up. Seeing your story brings me hope that because he is still so healthy we have a good chance of getting him to remission at least for a little while. I know I will not be prepared when the day comes but I hope with everything in me it’s not for a long time. I have been searching from the second we got home yesterday to find answers and happening upon your hopes has lifted my spirits for a little. I think I will still wake up each morning with some tears in my eyes until we have our answer Friday but I’m gonna keep looking to your story for hope! Thank you again!!

      • Ingrid says:

        There’s no way to ever be prepared for a diagnosis like this, Nigel. I’m so sorry you have to go through this with Puddles. The fact that he’s doing so well most likely makes him an excellent candidate for chemotherapy. Best wishes to both of you. Please keep us posted on how he’s doing.

  10. Cheryl says:

    My baby girl is 7 and she has been diagnosed with multicentric lymphoma. We need to decide by next week if we want to have her go through chemo or go with palliative care. My partner and I go back and forth on what to do. Money is a factor. We have paid close to 1300 already for surgery and for biopsy and additional costs is scary. It is hard to think about losing her because of money but it is a reality. We are not poor but money is tight. I worry about the stress and anxiety for her and for us. I need some inspiration for us to make the best decision for her—her name is Annie— and for comfort for my partner and I. I would love to get some feedback. This is heartbreaking…

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about your Annie, Cheryl. It is hard to know what the right decision is. Unfortunately, only you and your partner can make that decision. Every cat is different, and there is no right or wrong decision. 7 is so young, and if her prognosis is good, it may well be worth pursuing treatment. I understand money being a concern. Talk to you vet about that: they may be willing to work out a payment plan for you. Another option may be a Care Credit no interest credit card specifically designed for veterinary expenses: http://www.carecredit.com/vetmed/ Your vet may also be willing to work out a payment plan.

      All my best to Annie, and to you and your partner.

    • Julie says:

      Hi Cheryl, I am so sorry to read this, i know exactly where you’re at and how you are feeling. Lolly is 6 so Annie is just a year older and all I can say is that she is responding well to the chemo. We have limited insurance left and it gets eaten up quickly with the chemo and we may have to fund her treatment ourselves and believe me she has picked the wrong year to be ill as we have no resources at all so we may be left bereft by the fate of our outcome if we need to fund any. Its such a hard decision to make and so sad and unfair when you consider how young they are, we really thought we would have Lolly for years and years to come and every day we cuddle her and love her as we have no idea how much time she has. I’m probably not helping you and I dont know what to say to make your choice any easier, perhaps no one can. My rule of thumb is her welfare, as soon as she gets to the end of her tether, we will not push her anymore. But for now, she is getting used to the 2 weekly vet visits and daily pilling and she is looking brighter and happier than she has been for weeks. She is painfully thin and now has developed anaemia and may need a transfussion, every day there is a feeling of two steps forward, one back but we love her so much and I cannot give up until I know there is nothing I can do, if the money runs out, I will be gutted and I may never forgive myself if we have to pull the plug on her treatment because of money, but its a reality. I hope you find the right way forward for you and Annie and wish you every luck, please keep me updated as it helps me get through this too xx Julie

      • Ingrid says:

        Julie, unfortunately the “two steps forward one step back” feeling is common with cats going through chemo. I certainly experienced that with Feebee. My measure was always that as long as there was forward momentum, and the good days far outnumbered the bad, it was okay to keep going.

        • Julie says:

          Definately! I am willing her to fight this, I’m so glad they have no idea what is happening to them, they arent burdened with the fear we have of cancer BUT they do have to cope with the pain, so steps in a forward direction are welcomed with the biggest open arms I can manage!. Bless you for your kind words x

  11. Robert says:

    Hey all,
    Thanks for the blog. My Obi is 7, and was just diagnosed with high grade intestinal lymphoma
    and an enlarged kidney. My girlfriend and I are heartbroken. We
    decided to go with chemo, and today was day one. Obi seemed okay
    afterwards, but a few hours later he began vomiting and has had
    diarrhea since. The once affectionate, mischievous, and hysterical
    kitty now just sits in the dark in the bathroom adjacent to
    his litter box – only coming out to eat and drink water.
    Several websites claim that Prednisolone causes vomiting
    diarrhea, and behavioral changes (mood swings, etc.),
    and that long term exposure is bad. I’m now wondering if I made the
    right choice. This cat is like my son, and I’m dying right with Obi
    watching him go through this. Does the vomiting and diarrhea
    ever stop? Will I truly get my Obi back long enough to justify what I’m
    putting him through? How long can I hope to have him alive before
    losing him to this terrible disease?

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about Obi, Robert. My heart goes out to you and your girlfriend. Unfortunately, some cats do react to chemo the way Obi appears to have reacted. Sometimes, this reaction can be transient and will resolve 24-48 hours after the chemo treatment. Prednisone does have longterm adverse side effects, but with a cancer diagnosis, the benefits of the drug tend to outweigh the negatives. If you haven’t already, call your vet. This certainly isn’t a normal reaction to chemo, and warrants concern. Your vet will also be better able to answer your question about whether you’ll get your Obi back long enough to justify the treatment. Even though nobody can answer the question with any kind of certainty, your vet will have a clearer picture of his diagnosis, risk factors, etc. All my best to Obi!

    • Julie says:

      Hi Robert, I am so sorry to hear about Obi, you must be devastated. Please go back to the vet, they can prescribe other drugs to combat any sickness etc, its tough love when we have to administer these pills but it really helps them in the long run. Ingrid is so right, tell the vet immediately!! My Lolly is 6 and has responded so well to all the cocktails we are pumping into her, I dont know how long we have her for but every minute is precious, please dont waste a moment, get the vet to help you. Best of luck with it all x

  12. Robert says:

    Thanks Ingrid and Julie. I almost took Obi to
    Emergency to get anti-nausea meds and stuff,
    but he seems to be handling the treatment better
    since. He only throws up a tiny bit once in a while
    now, and seems to move around a bit and I
    even saw him scratch his post. What’s freaking me
    out is that most of the time he just sits or lays there
    lifeless looking, staring off into space. He won’t
    look at me unless I make a sudden movement with my
    hand or intentionally try to get his attention. He looks
    stoned and really out of it. Does Prednisolone cause this?
    I’m not sure how much he’s eating, but I do see him drinking.

    Any thoughts??

    -R

    • Ingrid says:

      It’s possible that the Pred is causing this, it can cause personality changes, but it seems like an extreme reaction to me. You mention anti-nausea meds – one that’s commonly used in cats is Reglan, and that, too, can cause personality changes. What does your vet say?

    • Julie says:

      Lolly was like that at first, I would sit with her for ages just willing her to respond to me. Sounds daft but we are very close and I miss her. Even though she is doing well, she is still acting like a cat and not the creature who knew my every mood and thought. So i think Ingrid is right, its the meds that can affect their moods. Lolly has got much better now that she is feeling better so maybe Obi will perk up once the drugs start to do their thing. Lolly had chemo today and is so hacked off with me, she is refusing to talk to me. Thing is, now she feels better, she is more aware of the fact that its me taking her to the vet and shoving pills in her gob and so i am the one she dislikes right now! The cheek of it! Update on her – her bloods were normal and the tumor can no longer be felt by hand. She has large cell lymphoma and I know thats the hard one to beat and so we are keeping it all crossed that she can continue to do well. She gained a bit more weight this week, not much but not a loss which is good. Four weeks ago, she was a bag of bones, slept all day, didnt eat and just wanted to die. I have cried so much over her, I swear I havent cried so much in years. Keep going Robert, you can only try your best x

      PS – her meds are Prednisolone, for anti-acid she’s on Famotine and anti sickness is Cerenia with some Gaviscon like stuff given orally too. Worked well for her along with her chemo

  13. Robert says:

    Hey again,
    I’m taking Obi for a third opinion tomorrow. Dr. Watanabe
    saved my friend’s cat Oscar who was diagnosed with
    terminal Carcinoma as a kitten. Oscar not only went into
    remission, he’s still here 8 years later. Obi hasn’t
    thrown up m

  14. Robert says:

    ore than once today.
    Hoping his Jimi Hendrix spaced out look goes away
    soon.
    Thanks for the thoughts and advice Julie and Ingrid.
    :)

    -R

  15. [...] Cancer used to be a death sentence for cats, but recent advances in feline cancer research have made treatment possible in many cases. Just like with human cancers, early detection is key to successful treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, treatment options may include sugery, radiation, and chemotherapy. [...]

  16. Donna says:

    Our 12 yr old Cornish Rex, Gaia, was just diagnosed with nasal lymphoblastic lymphoma. The vet said it was a focal mass. She is otherwise pretty healthy and organ functions all normal. We are trying to decide if we should proceed with chemo. She gets very stressed going to the vet and it is very difficult to give her meds. Even the vets and vet techs are challenged by her. She is very squirmy! Not nasty. The vet did not mention radiation treatment but after doing some research it seems like this type of cancer in this location responds favorably with higher remission rates for longer periods of time. Does anyone have any info on this? Also are there other options besides pills for the prednisone, anti emetic, antacid that cats will easily take. Gaia can be very fussy, especially since her nasal passages have been congested for the last 2 months.

    Thanks,
    Donna

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m sorry about Gaia’s diagnosis, Donna. Since Gaia is challenging at the vet’s, the frequency of treatments, whether it’s chemo or radiation, would definitely be a factor in your decision. Could she tolerate weekly visits? Depending on the type of chemo, it may not even be that frequently. Ask your vet about transdermal meds (the medication is compounded into a gel that’s rubbed on the inside of the ear), I’m pretty sure it’s available for prednisolone, not sure about emetic and antacid. You may also want to investigate holistic modalities to support her through treatment. Best wishes to you and Gaia!

  17. Holly says:

    Our 11 year old female tortie cat died on Monday suddenly at home. It was very traumatic for us all. She was diagnosed with cancer this summer. She had a large tumor removed from along her abdominal wall by our regular vet. Our vet recommended us to CARES for a consult with an vet with oncology background. The vets and staff at CARES were amazing in the very short time we had Tippy there.

    After the initial consult, the vet specialist determined that a lateral mastectomy wasn’t feasible given Tippy’s lungs (small amount of fluid discovered and tiny tumors). The cancer was similar to breast cancer in humans and spreads quickly through the lymph nodes/blood stream.

    We opted to do a trial of chemo to see how Tippy responded. The trial was given last Wednesday with a follow-up of two Cytoxan tablets. Tippy was scheduled for blood work today, but she didn’t make it. I am heartbroken. Since last week, Tippy seemed very lethargic and we noticed that her condition deteriorated after each of the Cytoxan tablets were given, but then she seemed to perk up a bit the following day.

    Sunday night we noticed a slight change in her breathing, but nothing that indicated any great distress. Monday morning, Bert gave her an anti-nausea tablet and Tippy went into full-blown distress. The entire incident lasted about 5 minutes. I had called the vet to let them know I was going to bring her right in, but she never made it.

    I am not sure what exactly led to her sudden death. From what I’ve read the chemo typically doesn’t effect cats to this degree. I miss her immensely and am glad she is out of any pain she may have been in. I don’t mean to be a downer, but wanted to share my story. Tippy was the sweetest cat and she will be missed.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about Tippy, Holly – what a devastating way to lose a beloved tortie. My heart goes out to you. I can only speculate based on what you’re telling me, but based on the fact that there was some fluid present in Tippy’s lungs, it’s possible that she may have had an underlying heart condition, and her sudden death may have been caused by a cardiac or vascular event. It’s probably impossible to tell whether this was related to the chemo, or whether it would have happened anyway.

  18. Elli says:

    Hi all,

    I know the last posts about this are from 2012, but I’m hoping you’re still out there! My cat Sonni just had his 2nd dose of chemo yesterday. Prior to starting, he was vomiting and his appetite changed. I immediately took him to the vet and they found an enlarged lympnode along his intestines. What I’m wondering is how long after starting chemo did you start to see an improvement? We’re thinking he has large cell lymphoma but did not confirm this since the treatment plan will be the same and it will be all about listening to him and seeing how he feels. Since starting, he doesn’t eat very much, and usually nothing the day after. Otherwise he just picks and seems disinterested. He’s not vomiting but is definitely more tired. I’m just hoping that when the meds start doing their thing he’ll start to eat better. How long was it before you noticed an improvement with your pets?

    Thanks in advance and lots of love to the fur babies out there!

  19. Sarah Irving says:

    Hi,
    I just wanted to add my experience here, since hearing the ‘real life’ versions from different cat owners was really useful for me in making decisions for my cat. Delilah was diagnosed with nasal lymphoma a couple of months ago. Healthy neutered queen, aged 10. She had 4 sessions of IV vincristine, a week apart, and this has now dropped to once every three weeks. On top of this, oral endoxana once every three weeks, plus daily prednisolone for the first month and now every other day. She was asymptomatic from the cancer within a couple of days of treatment starting (her symptoms were a bloody, snotty discharge from the relevant nostril and watery discharge from the eye). She seems not to react at all from the vincristine and prednisolone, except for increased appetite from the latter. She’s a bit quiet for about 12-24 hours after the endoxana and it gives her a slight stomach upset, but pretty light side effects for something that only happens every 3 weeks and has otherwise helped restore her to her normal cheery little self. Obviously we don’t know how long this is going to work for and I have a slight suspicion that the endoxana side effects may be getting worse as we go along, but even if it only gives her a few months more of good-quality life (especially since we’re having a lovely summer which she’s enjoying enormously) I think it’ll have been worth it. Also, thank goodness for pet insurance! We couldn’t have afforded it otherwise.

  20. Janet says:

    My 12-year old Leo was diagnosed with small-cell intestinal lymphoma three days ago. He had had chronic diarrhea for several months, and despite a normal appetite, lost over two pounds, which is a lot considering he was 11 pounds when he was healthy. After numerous tests and treatment, including ruling out hyperthyroidism, my vet was stumped. He referred me to a specialty diagnostic clinic who did the very expensive endoscopy/biopsy, and now we know.

    Interestingly, before he went for the biopsy, I took him off his normal food and put him on the Blue Wilderness , high protein, grain free “Natural Evolutionary Diet – Mature” kibbles. His diarrhea cleared up within a few days, and now he won’t eat anything else, including canned, go figure. Now here’s the blessing – if it hadn’t been for the diarrhea, I never would have known he had cancer.

    He just started treatment – a weekly Vitamin B-12 shot at the vet, Prednisolone twice a day and 1/2 Leukeran (chemotherapy) every other day. So far, he seems to be tolerating the treatment well – when he starts biting his brother in the morning and jumping the backyard fence to eat the grass next door, I’ll know he’s his old self again. Can’t wait.

    • Ingrid says:

      Leo’s protocol sounds very similar to what my cat Feebee was on. He tolerated it really well for a long time. It’s not surprising to me that his diarrhea cleared so quickly when you put him on the grain-free diet, I hear this a lot from cat guardians who have made the switch. I don’t recommend dry food, but in your case, I’d stick with what is working! All my best to both of you.

  21. Joan says:

    My cat Pierre was diagnosed with lymphoma in april. The mass was removed and his lymph nodes were fine. He is on a regime of predisone and some others along with vincristine. The vincristine has knocked him down so much that he is so tired and his blood work is not good, He had another treatment 2 days ago and he is not doing well. He is home but I don’t know if he will make it through the night.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry Pierre is having such a hard time, Joan. All my best to both of you.

      • Joan says:

        Thank you Ingrid,
        My kitty, Pierre stayed on my bed next to me until he passed at 12:45am this morning.

        • Ingrid says:

          Oh Joan, I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to you. At least he was right there with you when he passed – I hope that brings some comfort. Be gentle with yourself as you mourn your beautiful boy.

  22. Johnny says:

    Sooner was taken in as a stray in 2005. He has lost some of his teeth and was losing weight so I decided to have the vet do more testing to see what was causing him to lose weight. Dr. Jones, an outstanding cat vet in Wichita, Kansas, after some testing decided to have us take Sooner to Kansas State Vet Hospital for more testing. Sooner has some type of stomach cancer. They recommended chemo so we started the treatment in August 2013. He is doing okay with the treatment, but still only weighs 8.5 pounds. We have been monitoring his weight weekly, since he has a hard time chewing since he has lost some of his teeth over time. I am not sure how old he is, but would like to know if there is cat food that he might eat better. We have tried numerous types. He will eat some of the Fancy Feast with gravy, but it takes him a long time to eat a can. Most of the time he does not eat a whole can. Thanks for any suggestions. We have had two other cats die from cancer in their mouths. So this is tough to go through no matter where the cancer is located.

  23. Robin says:

    Over the last several months, one of my cats(I have 5) had stopped grooming himself as well as he use to and had lost a little bit of weight. The loss of weight didn’t alarm me, because about 10 months ago, I had changed their food to a light variety, because of my other cats had needed to lose some weight. I had brought one of my other cats in for his yearly exam and mentioned my concern about this cat. My vet had me bring him in and blood work was done. Previously, he had his routine exam/blood work done 4 months earlier and everything was normal. In the week following the blood work, his appetite deteriorated until he totally stopped eating. I immediately brought him in to my vet and it was suggested he recommended an endoscopy be done. Well, the biopsy from the endoscopy as well as the biopsy from an actual surgically obtained sample came back negative(it was thought his stomach was leaking into his abdomen a few days after the endoscopy so they operated and while in there obtained a good sample). They also put a feeding tube in him, so he could get nourishment. My vet was still skeptical when the biopsies were negative and sent a sample out to a lab to split the cells. It took a month to come back but it just came back positive as small cell lymphoma. This all started about 5-6 weeks ago. During that time, he was first put on a course of antibiotics because there was some bad type of bacteria found in his stomach as well as anti nausea meds and Famotidine. After 1.5 weeks he was taken off most of the meds and Predasone was added so he was just on Predasone and Famotidine. He was responding a bit but not as well as my vet thought he should be, so for 5 days, he changed from Predasone to Dexamethasone shots once a day. That made a lot of difference. A few days ago, he switched him back to Predasone and he is still doing well. He really doesn’t need to be tube fed anymore, although I am still giving him 1-2 small tube feedings/day when I give him his meds. I want him to be as strong as possible when he starts the chemo treatment. The plan is to start him on oral chemo in a few days. He says he will need to be on it forever. My concern with him being on it forever is that the cells will get use to it and it will stop working. Shouldn’t it be stopped after a while and then started again if he deteriorates? He never vomited or had diarrhea. His only symptoms were weight loss(he lost just under 1 lb in 4 months). Up until 2 weeks ago, he had lost a total of 1.6 lbs….from 11.1 to 9.5. In the last week, I can tell he’s put a bit of weight back on and will know how much when I bring him in tomorrow to get his tube dressing changed. His personality is a lot brighter too and he seems to be improving every day. I’m also concerned about my other cats being exposed to the chemo drug that will be excreted as they share litter boxes. I live in a small apt and it would be impossible to separate them. Your comments are appreciated. Thank you.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m glad your vet persisted in getting a proper diagnosis for your cat, Robin. You’ll have to work with your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist to determine the best protocol for your cat. Depending on how he responds, the drugs, or the frequency with which they are given, may be adjusted as he goes through treatment. All my best to your cat!

  24. Joanne says:

    I found your site trying to research on how well cats can respond to chemotherapy. I have a tortie named Mauli who just recently turned 8 years old who had undergone a major surgery a year ago to remove a huge cancerous mass in her neck area (apparently the tumor was a size that could fit in two hands cupped together). From what I was told, the type of cancer she had atthe time was little known, rapid growing and there was no info on it. Surgery to remove was a risk. Her turmor was millimeters away from major arteries and nerves, but my husband and I love her as our own, so we decided to take the chance in giving her a second chance. Happy to say surgery went well. She was still her lively self before and literally after a risky and massive surgery. Just a few days ago, her hind legs gave out and she almost instantly lost all use of her legs. It didn’t stop her from doing her normal every day activities. She had accidents trying to make it to the litter in time. Once again, we were faced with another hurdle. Without any second guessing, we decided to go with chemo. Her first treatment was yesterday and she seems to be doing well. She may seem a little out of things but one look in her eyes, we knew she was giving up on her fight and we’re certainly not giving up her.

    • Ingrid says:

      It sounds like Mauli is a fighter, Joanne! All my best to her as she goes through her treatment. Keep us posted.

      • Joanne says:

        Thanks I will. Oh and i meant to say she wasn’t giving up but I’m sure you know what I meant.

        • Joanne says:

          Sad to say i have to part ways with my little Mauli tomorrow :(

          • Ingrid says:

            I’m so sorry, Joanne.

          • Joanne says:

            I was up all night second guessing my decision and I’m glad to say she’s still with me. I couldn’t do it. The vet agreed to give her the benefit of the doubt. She did show some good signs like actually getting up on all fours and walking to her bowl of water. She’s definitely not giving up.

          • Joanne says:

            Very sad news…. I had to say goodbye to my pretty girl Mauli on Dec 21st…. exactly 10 months I had to say goodbye to my very first cat Hercules. Her will, her heart and her spirit was still fighting but it was her body that was failing her. She was cremated the next day that happens to be my husband’s birthday. Christmas was an emotional day as she was my Christmas 8 years ago. I miss her terribly and I miss our cuddle times.

          • Ingrid says:

            I’m so sorry, Joanne. My heart goes out to you. It’s always devastating to lose a cat, but it’s that much harder when it happens during the holidays.

  25. Johnny says:

    We are currently having Sooner treated for stomach cancer. He takes chemo pills every other day and predisone everyday. He also takes a 1/4 of a pill every 3 to 4 days for an appetite. He lost about 1 pound to start his chemo from now until August. He is now gaining a little weight. He weigh 7.3 pounds in November when he went for a ultrasound at K-State. His Lymph glands were getting smaller. I have no idea how old he is since we got him 7 years as a stray. Now he weighs about 8 pounds. We have tried various can cat foods to get him to eat. He is eating better now with Pro cat food program. He likes the fish from LongJohn’s Silver. He appears to be getting better. I have no how long he will live, but as long as he is doing good I will continue the treatment. I really appreciate you help with his weight. Good luck to anyone who has a cat with cancer. We had two other cats that had cancer in the mouth and there was nothing we could do to treat them. Johnny

    • Ingrid says:

      It can be challenging to get a cat with cancer to maintain or gain weight, Johnny. Ideally, he should get foods that are high in protein, but the bottom line is that pretty much anything goes that will get him eating. You can try grain-free canned kitten food, it tends to be higher in calories than regular food, and can also be more palatable.

  26. Lori K. says:

    Our Henry was diagnosed with intestinal lymphoma 2 1/2 years ago at age 8. He went from 17 lbs to 8 lbs and is back to a healthy 12 lbs. He’s been on lose dose chemo (leukeran) 2x week, prednisone every other day, plus anti nausea medication. I put the pills in empty gel capsules to help him not taste the meds and with a bit of tuna, they go right down. He now has diabetes as a result of the prednisone so he gets shots twice a day as well. He has become very compliant with all the medication routines. His lymphoma numbers (checked every other month now after being checked monthly for 18 months) are “good” and the vet is keeping him on the chemo to not mess with what’s working. Research I found showed that low dose leukeran plus prednisone can put a cat with lymphoma into permanent remission which is our hope for Henry. With good management of his diabetes, we hope to have our now 11 year old cat live many more fun and healthy years. And, we have talked about end-of-life care for him so we are prepared when that arrives. He’s really my husband’s baby – amazing connection between the two – and I’m the pill-giver, shot-giver, driver-to-the-vet nurse mom. We feel very fortunate to be able to afford this level of care for our furry baby. Thanks for the post. Most helpful.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so glad Henry is doing so well, Lori. All my best to him for many more years with you!

    • Robin says:

      Lori K…I’m so glad your kitty is doing so well. My cat just started oral chemo this morning. 2 weeks ago, blood work showed that he was now diabetic…most likely from the steroids he’s been on for the last month. I wrote a detailed summary of what we’ve been going through. My vet has not addressed the diabetes issue yet. What are you feeding your cat? I have bought all sorts of high end grain free canned food with the hope of tempting him to eat more. After the chemo pill he received this morning, he was pretty lethargic all day. He got up a few times to drink some water and he did take a few licks of food, but not enough to sustain him. I’m thankful he has a feeding tube in him. My vet was thinking of removing it this week, but I want to keep it in just on case. I am still supplementing him with tube feedings but was wondering if you were feeding your kitty a special diabetic diet? Thanks.

  27. Anne says:

    My 15 year old cat Tara was diagnosed with Lymphoma about two weeks ago. Our vet recommended we put her to sleep , but we asked to be referred to an oncologist. The oncologist was more hopeful and said Tara was a good candidate for chemo. She did well for a couple of days after the chemo and then we started noticing side-effects – slight diarrhoea and vomiting. I took her to the vet yesterday afternoon and she checked her over and said all her vital signs were stable. I was sent home with Tara and some different medication. Three hours later I found my cat lying in the litter tray unable to walk. She was hospitalized and they tried everything they could. However, at 8am this morning (Christmas Day) we got a call from the vet saying they couldn’t get Tara’s blood pressure up and that permanent Kidney damage had set in. We had to put our beautiful, loving puss to sleep:( It seems the chemo worked. It shrank the tumor, but sadly it damaged her bowels and she went down hill rapidly.
    We never thought would be bury our sweet natured cat on Christmas Day!
    The oncologist led us to believe Tara would have a good quality of life for 4 to 6 months. Chemo doesn’t always work:(
    We are heart broken:((

    • Ingrid says:

      Oh Anne, I’m so very sorry about Tara. My heart goes out to you. Losing a beloved cat is always difficult, but on Christmas Day – I can’t even imagine.

  28. Kristen says:

    I took my sweet, 5 year old boy, Moochie to the vet on Christmas Eve. He had a severely decreased appetite and was lethargic. They found a mass in his stomach. It’s about 1.5 x 1 inch. He has an appointment tomorrow at a specialty clinic that has an oncologist. I have prepared my daughter to say goodbye to her “little brother.” I don’t know that I am prepared to do chemo. If surgery will help then I plan on doing that to buy some time with him. I don’t know what the right decision is. He is also FeLV positive. I pray that he can be helped but we may only have a few days left if he can’t be. I don’t want to continue syringe feeding him (he hates it and gags a lot) if he isn’t going to get better. He still likes to be pet, but that is his only real enjoyment left.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about Moochie, Kristen. I know it will be a difficult decision, but you’ll have more information after your appointment tomorrow. All my best to both of you.

      • Kristen says:

        Unfortunately, Moochie had to be out to sleep on Monday :( I have been devastated. He went downhill very quickly and on Sunday he was breathing kind of funny and on Monday he couldn’t walk well. I will forever miss him and am so mad at this terrible disease.

  29. Chelsey says:

    I would just like to thank you for your informative article. My cat Dominic has just recently been diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Lymphoma and we are going to try chemo. Your article has helped me to understand what we may expect. Dom’s cancer was unfortunately well hidden until an exhaustive biopsy was done and it is very late stage, and large. His vet told us it should have killed him by now and that alone is reason enough for me to give him a fighting chance, he is not your average cat. I am hoping that we can enjoy another year or two with Dominic, but when he tells me he’s done fighting I will listen, as hard as it will be.

  30. Johnny says:

    I have written earlier about Sooner. He is doing better. He weighed 7.3 pounds before New Years. We were out of town so he was at the Cat Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. He weighed 7.8 pounds after we picked him up a week later. He is on Kemo, an 1/4 of appetite pill every 4 days and predisone. He has stomach cancer. His lymph nodes in his tummy have been going down. He had his last ultra sound on his stomach in November. He eats well now and depending on the week his choice of food varies. We may have to put out different choices before he settles in to eat. Thanks for having this available for discussion and sharing about our pets who are more like family. Johnny

  31. johnny says:

    We are trying to find the best source to get Leukeran 2 mg. We were quoted a price of $250 for 50 tablets, but when we went to pick it up the price was over $450. Since Sooner has been taking this Leukeran 2 mg he has improved. Before he was taking a capsule that was a generic 1.8 mg and it was not working to shrink his stomach cancer. I really want to continue helping him, but the price is going to make it difficult. If anyone has a resource to get the better price please let me know. Thanks, Johnny

  32. Robin says:

    Call the pharmaceutical company that makes it. They might be willing to help.

  33. Cindy Clark says:

    My cat was diagnosed with early stage lymphoma of the liver and intestines I believe and is undergoing chemotherapy (medication we administer at home) and steroids. Overall, Sampson seems to be handling the chemo meds well; however, we have noticed that he doesn’t seem to really care for the food that the vet put him on Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal (we live in Dubai, so most of the cat foods we’re used to aren’t available out here) and he seems to throw up occasionally after he eats and has severe diarrhea. I expected the diarrhea and the blood in it, but now it’s pretty bad and won’t have bowel movements in the litter box because he doesn’t like getting the feces on himself, so he chooses to go outside of the box instead, which is driving me crazy. I do not believe the problem is that he can’t hold his stools long enough to get to the cat box. He just doesn’t want to get it on himself.

    I just don’t understand why he has such severe diarrhea when we have already begun the process of decreasing his chemo medication dosage to every four or five days now, as he’s been showing signs of improvement. He is strong and healthy again, eating well and has more energy, yet still throws up occasionally and the chronic diarrhea are a real problem. Don’t know what to feed him or give him to improve his stools. Any helpful comments are truly appreciated. I have asked my vet about this repeatedly with no helpful results. I am now trying a paste that is supposed to help thicken up his stools, but thus far it’s not working and he only has one day left of the paste, then it’s back to the vet. :-(

    • Ingrid says:

      Are you giving Sampson probiotics, Cindy? That’s the first thing I would try. Severe diarrhea is always a serious concern, but especially in a cat with lymphoma, and I’m shocked that your vet seems to be rather cavalier about it. I’m guessing you have limited access to veterinarians there?

  34. Cindy Clark says:

    I wish I knew what food would work best for Sampson and what other meds and/or pastes would help so that he’d quit going outside of the litter box. I sure do miss my U.S. Vet! It’s so hard to live outside of the country and not have access to the same cat foods as in America. So, any advice or helpful comments are truly appreciated.

    • Ingrid says:

      If you’ve ruled out medical issues for Sampson’s inappropriate elimination, I would consider working with a feline behaviorist, Cindy. I can recommend two who do remote consultations: Pam Johnson-Bennett and Marilyn Krieger.

      • Cindy Clark says:

        If what the vet says is true, then Sampson is having diarrhea from the chemo tablets, but that doesn’t help me figure out what to give him to slow them down, and I believe he has bowel movements outside of the box due to the fact that he gets the feces on himself when he tries to cover up his stool, so he goes outside of the box to avoid the mess.. He’s never done this before, and it started happening a few months back.

  35. Cindy Clark says:

    Hello, I have something called Nutripet but the vet hasn’t said that I
    need to give it to Sampson. I had bought it at a pet store in the hope of
    getting some nutrients and vitamins into Sampson. On the tube it says
    high-energy vitamin concentrate. A palatable high-energy dietary
    supplement for dogs and cats.

    I agree with your comment regarding the vets cavalier attitude towards
    Sampson’s diarrhea. He said that it’s very common when a cat is on chemo
    to have that happen. Well, I strongly disagree with that. It would seem
    that they would want to give him something and/or put him on a more
    natural diet and a paste or something to help with the loose stools.I just
    asked my husband, and he doesn’t seem to think that the paste is a
    probiotic.

    I’m so discouraged! I would love to know what type of food I should be
    giving my cat, as the Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal isn’t helping him at
    all, and frankly, he doesn’t seem to like the taste of the dry or moist. I
    also want to know if my cat should be eating moist or dry food primarily.
    I will be going back to the vet within the next couple of days to discuss
    this in-depth. Sigh…

    Are the names you gave me of the feline behaviorists stateside? How would I contact them from Dubai? I do have a stateside phone number that they could use to contact me.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m not familiar with Nutripet, but it doesn’t sound like a probiotic. Yes, the two behaviorists are in the US. Pam Johnson-Bennett’s website is http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/, Marilyn Krieger’s is http://thecatcoach.com/.

      You can also try canned pumpking (just straight pumpkin, not the pie filling) or psyllium. I’d be happy to set up a phone consultation with you if you would like to discuss this in more detail, you can find information about consultations in the tab below the header on this site.

Leave a Reply