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Dealing With Cats and Lymphoma

One of my close friends recently lost one of her cats to cancer, so I thought I’d share her story and some information I hope you find useful.

First, her cat (I’ll call her “D”) was a happy, spoiled baby who loved everyone. She wasn’t shy and she always greeted visitors to HER home. She was about 14 years old. The first unusual things my friend noticed was that she seemed to lose a bit of weight and was eating a little less. Otherwise, she seemed like her usual self.

Then, suddenly one day, she stopped eating. Since my friend didn’t free feed her, but controlled her food intake, she could see right away that “D” refused to eat. She took her to the veterinarian that afternoon. The vet found a lump in her stomach and performed an initial ultrasound to confirm that she had a mass. Then, the vet recommended another ultrasound by a certified radiologist.

A few days later, “D” had her second ultrasound and the vet said she had multiple masses in her small intestines and had sent samples to the lab for testing. The tests showed that “D” had lymphoma. My friend was presented with three choices for her: chemotherapy, drugs, or euthanasia.

After a lot research and consulting with her veterinarian, my friend found that “D’s” life might be extended a maximum of one year with chemotherapy. But because of the size and locations of the masses, “D” would probably not even get to that one-year mark.

It was a terribly difficult time for my friend. She wanted to make the right decision for “D”, not just for herself and how much she wanted to keep “D” with her. When she had adopted “D” from a shelter when “D” was three years old. My friend promised her two things; that she had found her forever home, and that she would never let her suffer if she ever became ill. After speaking further with her vet, she decided not to put her through chemo, but to watch her and choose the appropriate time to have her euthanized.

After about one week of eating very little, “D” stopped eating her favorite moist cat food completely. My friend knew it was time to let her go because if she went on like that any longer, she would suffer, starving herself until she died. My friend was able to say her goodbyes, holding “D” gently as she was peacefully euthanized.

GASTROINTESTINAL LYMPHOMA IN CATS

“D” had a type of cancer known as gastrointestinal lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells, which in turn can affect any organ in the body. Gastrointestinal lymphoma, which effects the stomach, and the small and large intestines, is one of four types of lymphoma. The other three, categorized by what parts of the body affected, are: mediastinal, multicentric, and extranodal.

Lymphoma is now the most often diagnosed form of cancer in cats, with older cats and cats infected with the FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) at most risk. My friend’s cat experienced some of the common symptoms of gastrointestinal lymphoma, which include:

* loss of weight
* loss of appetite
* diarrhea
* decrease in grooming resulting in dirty/matted/rough coat
* lethargy
* vomiting

DIAGNOSIS and YOUR CHOICES

Paying attention to your cat’s normal routines, behaviors, and appearance is always helpful as it alerts you fairly quickly when something is amiss. When you notice something unusual, it’s a good idea to take a trip to the veterinarian for a check-up. With modern equipment, tests, and expertise, the vet can help diagnose illnesses in a timely manner, and give you the information you need to make choices for your pet.

Every pet is different and you should consider what is best for your pet and his unique circumstances. Discuss the options possible for your pet and weigh the pros and cons of surgery, chemo, drugs, and euthanasia.

Take the time to talk to your vet. They are there for you and your pet and to help you make informed decisions that will be for the best. Don’t be shy to ask questions and even get a second opinion if you want.

DEALING WITH DEATH

As with any type of ending, the death of a pet can be devastating. As pet owners, we have to be prepared to make difficult decisions for our pets because they truly depend on us for their comfort and well being. Remember that you will need emotional support during this time. Reach out to friends and family. You don’t have to be alone.

My friend agonized about what to do, always keeping in mind that she didn’t want her cat to suffer. She felt bad about having to make that decision, but she knew it was her responsibility. She continues to grieve, but is comforted by the knowledge that she made the right decision for her beloved pet, and by the support of those who care about her.

References:
http://www.manhattancats.com/Articles/Gastrointestinal_Lymphoma_in_Cats.html
http://www.petside.com/health/petvet/lymphoma-feline.php

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