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World Cancer Day and your Cat

Today is World Cancer Day and because it is also national cat health month, and responsible pet owner month, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the leading cause of death in cats and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), the leading cause of cancer.

Unlike cancer, FeLV is highly contagious and transmissible through casual contact. The most common way cats contract FeLV is from the saliva or nasal fluids of an infected cat. That is why it is so important to have your cat tested before she is exposed to any other cat already in your household. There is a vaccine for FeLV, but it is only effective in cats that do not already have the virus.

While a cat can live into their teens with FeLV, eventually they will succumb to illness due to a compromised Immune system. It is common for cats over the age of 10 to develop cancer or other diseases due to the feline retro virus. Cats with FeLV should not be brought into homes with cats who do not test positive for the virus unless they can be kept separated for their entire lives. While it is possible for infected cats to go into remission, it is still not advisable to house infected cats with non-infected cats.

Cats who test positive should however, not be turned out on the street or allowed to be outside cats. Beside potentially infecting other cats they are at a much greater risk of getting sick from other diseases because of their compromised immune system.

Cancer on the other hand is not contagious and, in some cases, can be treated successfully. The key is early detection. Cats are masters of hiding their ailments because in the wild the sick cat would be killed. It is especially important for cat parents to pay attention to even the slightest changes in your cat’s mood, behavior, and habits. Cats contract cancer for much of the same reasons people do. Some of the risk factors for cats are exposure to cigar and cigarette smoke, asbestos, prolonged sunlight, and lack of exercise. White cats or bicolor cats who are predominantly white, are at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer than darker colored cats. So, make sure “Snowball” does not spend too much time in her favorite sunny spot.

There are also some cancers that can be avoided all together by spaying your kitten before 5 months of age or neutering your cat before they are six months old. Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer and reduces your cat’s risk of developing mammary cancer 7 times more than a female who has not been fixed. Conversely a female cat who has not been spayed has her risk factor multiply after every litter she produces. According to VCA animal hospitals, Mammary or breast cancer is the number one type of cancer diagnosed in unspayed cats. Neutered males eliminate the chance of testicular cancer and reduce their risk of other cancers.

For more information on cancer and how you can keep your fur kid healthy, please consult your veterinarian. There are many ways we can help keep our fur kids healthy. Knowing their risks and what to look for are good ways to start.

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