My Cat Beat Skin Cancer (Feline Subcutaneous Hemangiosarcoma)
For owners facing the dilemma of your cat having cancer, I hope this hub helps to reassure you that it is possible for your cat to survive even an aggressive form of cancer.
Spur is a domestic short haired male cat with lovely apple green eyes and a teardrop-shaped nose, we estimate that he was born in 2000. We got him from a friend of a friend so we don't know much about him other than he's a sweet lovable guy who acts much like a playful attention-loving puppy. He came along at a perfect time to be a companion to our other male cat who was acting lonely in his old age. And they were wonderful companions until the other cat passed away in 2007. We got a young female cat in 2007 who is now Spur's frisky little sister.
He's an indoor cat but loves to roll around on the lawn, chew on grass and spy on the neighbors from under a lilac bush.
Before surgeryClick thumbnail to view full-size
We discovered a lump in the right side of Spur's abdomen in April 2012. After doing some research on the Internet as to what it could be, we didn't make much of it. We thought it could be fat. But decided to take him to the vet for an exam just in case. The vet looked him over but needed to do a biopsy to determine the nature of the lump. Unfortunately, because Spur was uncooperative, they needed to sedate him for the procedure. We had to find the time to drop him off and pick him up the same day as they do not provide overnight boarding. We became concerned after a week when we felt that the lump had grown larger and firmer.
We decided to take him to another vet, we found a 7-day animal hospital. They did a biopsy but could not determine exactly what the lump was from the sample. We told them to go ahead and remove the lump. Because more test were required, we had to talk to an oncologist to find out as much as we can. So we took him to the University of Guelph (in Canada). The University did tests on the tumor. They also did an ultrasound of his abdomen and an MRI. They determined that he had feline subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. The University vets suggested doing another surgery immediately to remove more of the tissue around where the lump was located. His second surgery was a month after his first surgery. They ended up taking a muscle out of his right flank also. And polypropelene mesh was used to patch the abdominal wall. Thank goodness surgery went very well. And he recovered quickly without any signs of lethargy or pain or change in behavior. In fact, he acted so normal that we had to keep him in a wire kennel (for a large dog) while he healed because he kept jumping up on things.
After surgery, an oncologist said we could consider chemotherapy to prevent recurrence. After discussing the pros and cons, we decided not to pursue this. Chemo would damage his organs especially the liver.
The vets couldn't give us any specific advice as very little research and data gathering has been done for cats with this type of cancer. We were told that they come across this more in dogs than cats. And cats with cancer are usually put down immediately. They do have some data for dogs with this cancer. Cancer usually shortens the life of dogs especially older dogs. But as with humans, results vary for each case. And we gave Spur all the help he needed since he was healthy and full of life.
The only negative about the whole ordeal is now he hates going to the vet. Each time we take him for a checkup, he puts up a huge fight along with blood curdling screams when they try to take a blood or urine sample. Poor guy.
After surgeryClick thumbnail to view full-size
In the photo below you can see how the pattern on his coat is a little crooked but it is hardly noticeable that he lost some of his fur. It took about 6 months for his fur to grow back in completely. For a while I was worried how it would end up looking because it was growing back in clumps at a very slow pace.
But as you can see in the before and after pictures, he didn't change much. What a happy outcome to his ordeal, he's as energetic and lovable as ever.
Around October 2015 a hernia developed where the mesh was inserted. The vets think the mesh dissolved. It's not life threatening at this point. So we decided to leave things alone and monitor any change in size or shape. If it becomes twisted or tangled in his organs it would be fatal. The vets say because of his age, Spur may not be able to survive anesthesia without complications. So far he's not bothered by it, and he's still got a very healthy appetite. In fact he's eating more these days!
I made this video of Spur drinking from the tap, he does this at least 3 times a day
The saga continues: Hyperthyroidism
Entry date: April 13, 2017
In the Fall of 2016 Spur was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. He's been taking Tapazole ever since which has stabilized his levels. But his weight has slowly been declining. Mid-February 2017 his weight reached 8 lbs. By March it was 7.6. It went down to 6.4 in April.
However, the vets did not recommend anything. All they said to me was he would last weeks to months in his condition. They did not suggest any special food. They could not determine the cause of his weight loss without further intrusive tests which we did not agree to. They did agree to giving him subcutaneous fluids to keep him going, which owners can easily administer themselves twice a week at home with a little training. I agreed to fluids when required but declined to administering the fluids myself because he did not seem like he has giving up yet. He was still going through his daily routines: waking me up, taking a little walk outside for some fresh air, drink from the tub.
One vet gave me the end of life talk, that I should keep a calendar of his activity level so that when his "bad days" are more than his "good days" I should consider euthanasia. The sooner the better, she said, because prolonging his state would be painful and cruel.
His appetite has been finicky which causes occasional constipation. When he started taking Tapazole, we also gave him a steriod (Prednisolone) to stimulate his appetite. At one point his constipation got so bad he had to get an enema. We tried lactulose (non-absorbable sugar in a syrup form) and cisapride (a pill that increases motility in the upper gastrointestinal tract) to help with his bowel movement. Some trial and error was necessary as the lactulose and cisapride made his stool runny. After some Internet research I started giving him pureed pumpkin using a syringe, about 1.5 ml daily. I was skeptical about this but it helps since pumpkin has lots of fiber. I like it because it is all natural. I also read that powdered cellulose, an ingredient often used in pet food, can cause constipation.
As of February 2017 Spur has also been diagnosed with Level 2 chronic kidney disease. The vets suggested giving him Hill's Prescription Diet k/d and g/d canned wet food. But these formulas are low in protein so Spur refused to eat them. He would eat chicken flavored Authority (a Petsmart brand) canned pate. Fairly high in calories according to the vet, 1144 kcal/kg, which is probably why he likes it. But unfortunately does not help keep his weight up.
Around that time he also stopped eating treats and dry food -- that was the signal to us that he's off carbs.
When his weight reached 6.4 lbs we requested to start Spur again on steroid pills (Prednisolone) to stimulate his appetite and give Hill's Prescription Diet a/d a try. We hit the mark this time. I give him as much a/d as we wants (like regular food, not mixed with water), and he's been eating it non-stop. The best thing about this food is it is easy to digest -- so no constipation or diarrhea. His bowel movement has never been better. He's been going every day (it was every other day for months prior). Also no need for pumpkin puree. We saw weight gain quickly. By day 6 he weighed around 7 lbs on an empty stomach. My only regret is not trying this sooner.
I will continue to feed him the a/d until he gets tired of it. I am also giving him Performatrin Ultra Adult chicken and turkey pate wet food because they do not have phosphorous and are high in calories. He seems to love these, thankfully. I've also cut back on the steroid dose by half as the regular dose makes him groggy and slightly off-balance.
Since he's been eating Hill's a/d he has not been begging for water, doesn't seem needy or in stress. He's seem calmer and content. Thank goodness for the Internet because experienced cat owners feedback has been the best advice. Many people swear by Hill's a/d and I've joined the club.
Thanks to the folks who shared their cat photos. And experienced advice online. It helped me to see that Spur's weight loss is related to his thyroid issue. I learned that even though the medication may help stabilize his condition, the disease burns up a lot of energy, so he needs more calories and protein intake to keep his weight up. And limited carbohydrate intake.
The most commonly reported symptom of hyperthyroidism in cats is weight loss that occurs despite a good appetite. The nature of cats unique metabolic needs as obligate carnivores means that this weight loss comes with the added symptom of muscle wasting. Despite the increase in food consumption that virtually always accompanies hyperthyroidism, these cats are simply unable to meet their daily caloric and protein intake needs. Hyperthyroid cats need high calorie and high protein diets to reduce the rate of weight loss and muscle wasting that accompanies the disease.