Fighting Cat Cancer in Smarter Ways
If your life has been touched by feline cancer, my heart goes out to you—more than you know.
One of my biggest motivations for getting more serious about natural cat care and eventually creating this blog was that I had a feline soul mate diagnosed with high-grade intestinal lymphoma–and I was knocked flat with despair and shock.
How did it happen? Where did I go wrong, and…“what do we do now?” Should we try chemotherapy, which only promised to extend her life several months, or should we try an alternative?
I was not prepared. And it didn’t go that well. I spent endless hours researching options and trying to save her, but it was all too little, too late.
That’s why a dream for this blog is to give you a place to go if you’ve lost a cat to cancer and want to know how to prevent that from happening again. Or if you have a cat cancer diagnosis and want to get some helpful information.
If you want to help your cat avoid getting cancer
I’m always looking into how prevent cat cancer. Here’s a great starting place:
- Go grain-free, like the foods here, if you want to prevent intestinal cat cancer (it’s a common one). Cats eating grains appear much more likely to quietly develop IBD, which many experts believe is a precursor to the deadly intestinal lymphoma. (You may be interested in another vet’s post about this too.) Also, cancer cells use the sugars from carbs for fuel – another great reason to go grain free.
See also Jean Hofve, DVM’s extensive article on preventing cancer in cats.
If your cat has been diagnosed with cancer
Here’s what I have for you so far…
One cat’s success story
See Incurable to Cancer-Free in One Year: How Nate-the-Cat Survived High Grade Lymphoma. This interview made me very happy! My only regret is I didn’t hear about this approach when I needed it.
What’s your cat’s stress level with the treatment?
Take your cat’s feelings and preferences into consideration with the treatment path you choose. As one doctor said to me “stress alone can kill a cat,” and certainly inhibits the immune system your cat needs to fight the cancer. So, for example, you may decide that terrifying your cat regularly to get certain treatments that may not extend their life by much may not be the best choice.
Getting holistic help for feline cancer
Personally, I wish we had gone 100% alternative and holistic (instead of 30%) in treating Bastet’s cancer. Your cat and your cat’s condition may be different, but in my cat’s case I think it would have been less stressful and painful for her and therefore more hopeful.
But, I would not attempt alternative treatments with out expert help. Cancer is a tricky thing.
Look for a holistic vet who has some experience and success in treating cancer–you can at least just have a quick phone consult with them. Some resources:
- Check out Dr. Loops page that outlines the latest treatment alternatives–it’s one of the best I’ve seen so far
- Consult with a holistic vet by phone–here are a few phone-available holistic vets I found
- Find a local holistic vet using this directory and look for reviews of them at a site like Yelp.com
One of the most important things I learned
I want to tell you this right away because I believe it was a factor in our cat not beating cancer.
Most cancer-killing methods, even some alternative ones, essentially breed stronger cancer cells. That’s because the tiny little cells that survived start growing and breeding, given half a chance. These are the cells that were strong and smart enough to be resistant to the stuff you were using to kill them.
Think of how over-use of antibiotics has spawned stronger, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s the same kind of problem.
This means you must keep up the fight and not ease off until an expert you really trust confirms that every single cancer cell has been wiped out. (That’s different from just saying a tumor is gone.)
For example, if you are using chemotherapy and your cat isn’t doing well with it and you need to ease off the chemo, you’ve got to keep going strong with an alternative that she does tolerate. One way or another, you need to make sure the cancer is getting constant, even treatment—no letting up too early.
When you are struggling to understand what’s best for a cat who is very ill
It can be so hard to think and see clearly when a cat we love is ill or suffering. I found an immensely helpful tool for making hard decisions about pursuing treatment or helping an animal to die with dignity and less pain.
The veterinarian who started Pawspice, Dr. Alice Villalobosa, created this tool. It’s a quality of life scale for animals with terminal illness.
This thoughtful “scorecard” helps bring some clarity: a total of over 35 points generally represents acceptable life quality, where continuing to help your cat be comfortable, alleviate pain, and perhaps even extend her or his life or heal (!) would make sense:
Bear in mind that animals with cancer can have bad days and good days – and even bad weeks and good weeks, so go through this scale with an eye for the overall trends, not necessarily what is happening right this moment.