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Can Oral Cancer(cat) develop within a few weeks?

June 21st, 2007, 03:34 PM
Dear Fellow Pet Owners,

I recently lost a beloved cat(18yrs.) to oral cancer that was only diagnosed after a few weeks from seeing the vet about another problem(severe hair pulling//chewing on his fur).

One day my male cat was lively and running around and then the next day he just started his hair pulling and acting not so lively and active.

Around the 1st of May is when he began literally pulling out his hair along his lower back and hindquarters. I took him to the vets within 2 weeks of this destructive behavior. The vet took blood from him(abut not without a large fight that ended in the cat having to be given some sleeping gas before taking his blood)(5/15/07). When the Super Chem screen-T4-CBC tests results came back, the only ones out of range were the cholesterol (226 High) and lymphocytes(very low-576).
Not having diabetes, thyroid problems or blood problems, the vet surmised that the reason for the severe hair pulling/chewing was misplaced aggression from the other cats in the neighborhood frequenting my yard(mine is an indoor cat). 1 cat and 2 dogs had recently moved in next door(1 year ago).

The vet put my cat on 5 mg. amitriptiline 2 times a day. After just 2 doses(started 5/25/07), he acted weird and couldn't judge distance. Walking around his water bowl and having a hard time lapping up water. I immediately called the doctor and he said to adjust the dose to 5mg. every other day. He seemed to improve with his drinking but just to make sure he got enough water I would occassionally give him water from an eyedropper.
He still continued his vigorous hair pulling.

On June 7th, I noticed some blood in his saucer of watered down CatSip milk. I checked him and found his forearms wet with blood smeared on them and a tiny bit of blood in the corner of his mouth. I cleaned him up(which he complained about) and looked for spots on his body where he could have gnawed himself raw and bled. I didn't find any.
Later that night, I noticed a wad of fur hanging from his mouth and when I tried to get it away from him he stuck out his tongue and I saw a large growth under his tongue. This apparently had been causing him the problem with not being able to lap the liquids correctly. I felt under both sides of his chin and didn't feel any lump there.
I took him to the vet the next day and he viewed him while the cat was hissing at him and noticed the large lump also. The vet said that mouth tumors are cancerous and that he could operate but that the cat would lose part of his tongue, not be able to eat well and eventually starve and die.
So it was with this sad news that I had to have him euthanized(6/8/07).

My biggest questions are:

Can oral cancers seemingly develop over a matter of just a few weeks without any warning?

Was the cancer the cause of his sudden strange behavior(hairpulling/chewing)?

Did the high cholesterol count or low lymphocytes count have anything to do with the cancer that developed so suddenly?

Please let me know if any of you have experienced anything like this with your animals.
Thanks, AliCat 42151

June 21st, 2007, 08:10 PM
First of all, I'm so sorry for your loss AliCat. :grouphug:

I have very little experience with cats or oral cancers, but I do know that some cancers can be quite aggressive. We had a setter that was running with abandon through the woods 3 weeks before he died of cancer. We only noticed symptoms about 4 days before he died. So it can go very quickly.

It sounds like you and your cat shared a lot of love. He was a very lucky cat to have you :candle:

June 21st, 2007, 08:25 PM
I am so sorry abut your loss! Sadly, cancers of all types- oral included - can be aggressive. It depends on the kind of cancer it is and what stage it is when diagnosed. It is entirely possible he has had it for awhile and it was not diagnosed. The fact the lymphocytes were low is an indication of something - bt is certainly not a cayuse. That is a commonly seen in cancer.

I doubt the hair pulling is a symptom but he may have been trying to communicate some discomfort and he may have felt unwell for some time

In cats, the early warning signs of oral cancer are often and understandably easily overlooked (even at time of dentistry) because the lesion is often not a mass. Rather than being a growth, it is an erosive ulcer that loosens teeth, which causes infection and mimics abscessed tooth roots. I highly recommend a deep-tooth-socket biopsy for cats at the time of extraction, especially if more than one tooth is involved.

I have read that cats are secretive with their lesions, so cancer is detected when the cat develops difficulty swallowing or acts unusual.Some cats paw violently at their mouth as an early warning sign. They may salivate or bleed and develop halitosis. I do not know what to suggest about the hair pulling but it may be he was in pain due to the tumour and somehow associated it with his fur. It is hard to know. And it is not unusual for cats to develop oral cancer "seemingly overnight" as someone I know whose cat died not long ago of this type of cancer (there are many types of oral cancers as well, as you can imagine).

June 22nd, 2007, 10:55 AM
Thanks guys (CyberKitten and Grouphug) for answering my thread about my cat. I did noticed that in the last week or so he developed really bad breath. He had had most of his teeth extracted years ago because of peridontal disease. We found him as a stray over 16yrs ago and I guess he already had poor eating habits, and diseased gums, etc then. Plus we also had to have him dewormed because he was infested with a huge tapeworm nearly 2 ft. long. right after we got him off the street.
After regular teeth scrapings/teeth cleaning it was decided that for the sake of his health he needed to have the teeth removed(back and side ones). He still on occassion would have stinky breath but not all the time.
I'm just greatful for all the fun times we had together and I guess when I'm ready I try and find another kitty to fill the void in my heart.
Thanks again for all your care and concern.
AliCat 42151

June 22nd, 2007, 04:48 PM
So sorry for your loss:grouphug: , and welcome to the site.

Thank you also for sharing, its good to have this info so that I can watch mine for these signs too. And it's so nice to hear of a rescue who started out rough, but lived the next 16 years greatly loved and cared for. :lovestruck:

June 23rd, 2007, 06:59 AM
Thanks Krdahmer(Crazy cat lady) and hazelrunpack,
When a kitty steals your heart you never want anything to happen to him. I have several friends who are just begging for me to take one or two of their many cats but I don't think I'm quite ready for one yet.
Also since owning this cat, I have had to take weekly allergy shots for cat dander, dust mites, mold(found in my school building where I teach)and birch trees. So I guess I did the ultimate sacrifice to keep him with me for 16yrs. considering my allergies. But it was all worth it for the love we shared!

marine's girlie
June 25th, 2007, 08:57 PM
hi alicat,
i, too am very sorry for your loss. 16 years is certainly a long time and it can be hard to let go.
oral cancers in cats can arise quickly, and as you know are very aggressive. cats are good at hiding the symptoms so it is likely that the mass was there long before you noticed and was only detected when it was big enough to interfere with daily function. in general, oral masses in cats are usually malignant while they are usually benign in dogs.
considering the circumstances, i think the kindest thing you did for your cat was euthanize, as difficult as it was for you to do. oral surgery can be quite invasive and anesthesia and surgery recovery at 16 is not always easy.
the high cholesterol may have been due to a recent meal, and to my knowledge is not usually indicitive of anything. the low lymphocytes, however in hindsight may have been a clue that there was something amiss, but there is no way to know for sure. (wait, just scrolled down again and saw that cyberkitten said that, sorry didn't mean to get repetitive).
it sure sounds like your cat was lucky to have someone care for him so well. you have my deepest sympathies.

June 26th, 2007, 07:33 AM
Marine's girlie,
Thanks for your condolences about my cat. He had been through a lot during his 16yrs. with me. Lord only knows what he went through for the first 1 1/2 yrs. he was either with someone else or out on the street. His poor teeth health and the large tapeworm he had, prior to living with me, can only attest to that fact. We just take them in, give them alot of love and care for them, making sure they get the best of care. Our pets just become family and its as if one of your chidren or relatives die when they are gone. Time heals they say.
AliCat 42151