cat nutrition

Cats and Cancer

Feebee

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 successfully treating feline cancers.

Common cancers in cats

One of the most common forms of cancer in cats is lymphoma. Other frequently seen cancers are oral squamous carcinomas, similar to what people get.   Fibrosarcomas, or soft tissue sarcomas, are tumors developing in muscle or in the connective tissue of the body.  These are generally associated with injections and vaccinations.  Other forms of cancer are less common, but they do occur in cats:  lung tumors, brain tumors, nasal tumors, liver tumors.  There are fewer incidences of mammary tumors (yes, cats can get breast cancer, too) since more cats are spayed and spaying is one of the best ways to prevent this particular cancer.

Symptoms of feline cancer

People and cats both show similar symptoms when it comes to cancer:

  • Lumps, especially lumps that seem to be getting bigger
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Unexplained bleeding or a strange discharge from any body opening
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Breathing problems
  • Lameness or stiffness that persists over a period of time
  • Bad odor
  • Having trouble eating or swallowing food

If you notice your cat showing any of these symptoms, take him to your veterinarian for a thorough examination.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis will vary, depending on the presenting symptoms.  An exam will most likely include a complete blood chemistry, blood count, and urinalysis.  Your veterinarian may take x-rays, perform an ultrasound, and take tissue biopsies.  Depending on where the biopsies are taken from, this may require sedation, or full anesthesia.  Biopsies will be reviewed by a veterinary pathologist to determine the type of cancer.

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.  Cats tend to tolerate chemotherapy much better than people, and can have good quality of life for many months and sometimes even years following treatment.  Radiation therapy may be used for tumors that can’t be removed.  This is a more stressful therapy for cats, since it will require sedation or anesthesia for each treatment.

Causes

There isn’t as much research into the causes of feline cancer as there is on the human side, but I don’t think it’s much of a leap to assume that some of the same environmental toxins that cause cancer in humans also cause cancers in our cats.  There have been some studies looking at secondhand smoke and feline cancers.  Vaccinations and other injections have been proven to be responsible for fibrosarcomas, and these findings have led to changing vaccine protocols for cats.

Prevention

While some cancers are caused by genetic mutations, there are still things cat owners can do to lessen the likelihood that their cats get the disease.

A wholesome, species-appropriate, meat-based diet is one of the most important foundations for preventing cancer, or any other health problems in cats.  A balanced grain-free raw meat or canned diet provides the best nutrition for your cat.  As obligate carnivores, cats do not need carbohydrates in their diet.  In fact, commercial dry cat foods have been linked to many of the degenerative diseases we’re seeing in cats such as diabetes, kidney failure, and inflammatory bowel disease.  The latter is often a precursor for intestinal lymphoma.  The one best thing you can do for your cat’s health is to eliminate all dry food from his diet.

Environmental toxins and stressors are also linked to cancer in humans, and probably cause cancers in cats.  Avoid exposure to commercial cleaning products and use natural products instead.  Make sure your cat always has pure (bottled or distilled) water available.  Most municipal water systems are contaminated with anything from heavy metals to chlorine.  Don’t use chemical flea and tick products on your pets, use natural alternatives instead.  Minimize vaccinations, and if your cat already has cancer, do not vaccinate the cat at all.

Cancer is a devastating disease, but early detection, combined with ever increasing treatment options, makes it possible for cats to continue to live with good quality of life.

You may also enjoy reading:

In memory of Sophia: cat owner runs half marathon to benefit cancer research

Feline nutrition: who bears the responsibility?

Photo is of Feebee, my first cat.  I lost him to lymphoma two days before his sixteenth birthday.

 

Book Review: The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care by Celester Yarnall, Ph.D. and Jean Hofve, DVM

Holistic Cat Care

The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care is a comprehensive resource for the cat parent interested in natural alternatives for feline health.  Co-authored by Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D, the author of Natural Cat Care and Natural Dog Care, and Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic veterinarian with extensive training in homeopathy and homotoxicology, the book covers topics such as nutrition, natural remedies, and hands-on healing in an easy to understand way without being light on the factual information.  The book places particular emphasis on nutrition as preventive medicine.  Yarnall, a breeder of Tonkinese championship show cats, bred and raised eleven generations of cats on the basic holistic principles outlined in her books.  The foundation of her breeding program is a raw food diet.  The chapter on Nutrtition as Preventative Medicine provides a complete and thorough overview of everything a cat owner might want to know about feeding raw the right way.

Other aspects of holistic cat care addressed in the book include natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy and flower essences, hand-on healing modalities including chiropractic, acupuncture and Reiki, as well as some more esoteric therapies such as Applied Kinesiology, crystal, color and sound healing, and magnetic therapy.  All of these modalities are introduced and explained in an easily accessible, yet comprehensive manner.  In conclusion, Yarnall offers her outlook on the ever-expanding field of anti-aging health care and how it might impact our cats.

In addition to being chock full of well-researched and well-presented information on holistic cat care, the book is beautifully laid out and  illustrated with stunning cat photographs.  This guide is a valuable resource for every cat owner interested in holistic health and a beautiful addition to your cat care library.

For more information about Celeste Yarnall and natural nutrition and health care for cats and dogs, please visit Celeste’s website at http://www.celestialpets.com.

Abnormal Love of Cats?

white cat

Those of us who love our cats sometimes wonder whether “normal” people might consider us a bit, shall we say, eccentric?  The following are some definite signs that you’re a cat lover:

  • You cut your after-work activities short just so you can get home to see your cat.
  • You dare not move a muscle when you cat falls asleep at your feet, even if you need to get up to go use the bathroom.
  • You sleep in the oddest positions, just so you can accommodate your cat, even if she chooses to plonk herself in the middle of your bed.
  • You take your cat’s name as your online name. 
  • When you’re telling a friend about having to take the cat to the V-E-T, you whisper and your eyes dart furtively around the room to make sure your cat isn’t within earshot.
  • You feel naked if your clothes aren’t covered in cat hair.
  • If you own more than one cat, you can tell which cat threw up just by looking at the pile.

Of course, none of us cat lovers consider any of these things abnormal!

Photo: morguefile.com