Cats and cancer – some thoughts before you treat
Cats, yes let me talk about the cats. I have four of them myself who share my home and they are wonderful lovely beings. This is not an article about how to treat specific cancers in cats – for that see my book Integrative and Alternative Methods for treating cancer in cats and dogs. This is an article about things we need to consider in cats and how they really are not just small dogs.
When it comes to cancer in cats they are a lot harder to treat than the dogs. There are a couple reasons for this. One is that I think cats hide their cancer more than dogs do. They really don’t let you know they are sick until it is pretty involved. And cancer is harder to treat when it is advanced.
However I think the largest reason they are hard to work with is that most cats hate medications. They spit them out, they run away from you and they know if you put something in their food! Ok so yes I have worked with some cats that you can put things in their food and they will still eat but most will not, especially if they feel sick. I have had people in tears in my office because their cats have decided that they hate them because they are trying to put all these things down their throats.
Because of this sometimes we make the decision to not treat them with anything or just with acupuncture. It really comes down to quality of life. It is important that we don’t make the end of their life miserable.
- I have found that in most cats I get, at most, three things I can give orally. More than that and I find you start getting reactions and cats spitting things out and hating their people. There are some cats that can do more than three but not that many.
Because of this I really hate to see folks surfing the internet and buying up every herbal in sight and trying to give them. Yes, yes I know that is how you got here and I appreciate you being here but if I can give you one piece of advice it would be to find a holistic vet to work with who can help direct you to the one or two or three things that will work the best for your cat, not someone else’s cat.
The other thing I have found is that if I can either use glycerine tinctures and combine herbals so that there is only one thing to give or figure out what is going to work the very best that can really help. Sometimes this ends up being a western drug, sometimes an herbal. Sometimes we can do both.
Above all else I don’t want cats to be in pain so sometimes this is a pain drug. Sometimes it is possible to give them injections, even better. Many people think they can’t give injections to their cats but really most cats do fine for injections and it is so much easier than getting something down their throat.
Some medications can also be made into a form that can be applied to the ear and is absorbed through the skin. This can also be an excellent option for cats.
- Fluids can go a long way in making cats feel better, if they are not drinking or eating well. These are given under the skin with a rather large needle but once again most cats don’t mind. They can help to increase energy, help them to eat better and help them feel better overall if there is a dehydration issue.
- Acupuncture can be a wonderful therapy for cats. Most casts like it and most importantly it does not have to go down their throat. Acupuncture can help slow cancer down and help with pain, appetite and energy.
- Eating is also very important. Many cats that are sick are quite picky with food. I love to see these guys on a homemade or high protein canned but really I want them to eat. So if they aren’t eating, a little tuna, a little salmon, baby food, whatever it takes. Get them eating. They will not feel well if they don’t. Sometimes we use appetite stimulants if they will not eat.
- Last let me say a few words about surgery and chemo and radiation.
First surgery. Cats don’t always do as well as dogs with it, if you are doing surgery internally. They usually do quite well with surgeries to remove cancer on the surface and also do very well with amputations. Bone cancer and fibrosarcomas need to be removed if possible. With abdominal and especially with thoracic surgeries, really weigh the pros and cons and ask a lot of questions about recovery.
Chemotherapy and radiation. Once again I feel like these are harder on cats. Chemo can be very effective for some lymphoma cases and often 1-3 treatments can put them in remission. Radiation can be very effective for certain surface tumors. Other than that. I really do believe that if the prognosis is not glowing or if they will need many, many treatments they do not do well.
Cats often have a sense of their own mortality. They may decide they don’t want extensive medical intervention. I really think that is ok. It saddens me to see the animals I work with die but I do believe that cats often times know when their time is close and are at peace with that.
I think more than anything, when it comes to the kitties, the most important thing is to look deep into your heart and do what is right for them. Not what the doctors say, not what is right for you, not what anyone says on their website or in their book. Sometimes they are ready to fight and live and sometimes it is time to keep them as comfortable as possible for what time they have here with us and then help them peacefully pass on.