When A Pet Has Cancer.

One of our cats is sick.  I think I mentioned in previous posts that we have two cats.  One is my husband’s and the other is mine.  It’s my husband’s cat that is not well.

Fizgig is the bestest cat ever.  When I first met him 11 years ago, he was a feisty guy who loved to play fetch with a string.  He was the perfect cat.  He was in the middle of the room at every party and even people who hated cats, loved this cat.  He is named after a character from the movie Dark Crystal.  Husband says he was a stray cat that just kept coming around until one day he let him in and became his pet.  For the past 11 years, Fizzy t has slept at my husband’s feet every single night.  When husband is out late, Fizzy will meow and meow and meow until he comes home.  I kid you not.  Husband isn’t really sure how old Fizzy is – best guess is probably 13 or 14 years old.

For the past two years, we’ve noticed a definite loss of weight.  Fizzy used to be big and heavy.  I’d say he’s lost almost half his body weight in the past two years, more so in the last six months.  We had him checked by our vet last year and he seemed okay despite the weight loss.  Blood tests then were normal.

Now, since the baby was born, we’ve noticed more weight loss and a new development: diarrhea.  Very occasionally there has been blood in the stool.  We thought it was stress related to the new baby, or maybe the change in wet food.  He’s always had a good appetite but lately he seemed to be a bit more picky.  Anyway, a few days ago husband noticed blood in Fizzy’s poop, so off to the vet we went.

Blood tests revealed elevated white blood cells, and more specifically, elevated lymphocytes.  Not good news.  The little guy has cancer, probably chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).  It’s possible it could be lymphoma, so we are going to get some x-rays to make sure there isn’t a tumor in the chest.  The vet thinks it’s probably CLL.  Being a physician, I’ve seen CLL during my Heme-Onc rotation, and I have one patient in my practice with very early stages of CLL. It never occurred to me that it could happen to a cat.  Husband thought, given the diarrhea and weight loss, that we were dealing with colon cancer.  I guess if there’s any good news here it’s that CLL is a chronic condition which does appear to respond to treatment with prednisone and chlorambucil.  Prednisone is a steroid that suppresses the immune system, reduces inflammation and may help to increase his appetite.  However, there is a risk of developing diabetes, given that he’s an older cat.  Chlorambucil is a chemotherapeutic drug.  It is used in humans, as well as felines, in the treatment of leukemia.  Use of chlorambucil requires regular monitoring of blood counts, probably once a week, to make sure it isn’t suppressing his blood counts.

We will probably treat him with prednisone to start.  I’m not keen on chlorambucil given the frequent blood monitoring involved.  Let’s be honest, vet care isn’t cheap.  Fizzy doesn’t appear to be in any pain.  I don’t like the idea of taking him to the vet weekly for a blood draw.  It just seems too much for the little guy.

To some it might seem silly, but a beloved pet is a member of the family.  We always knew Fizzy wouldn’t be with us forever but that reality is setting in all too quickly today.

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2 Responses to “When A Pet Has Cancer.”

  1. crankygiraffe Says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your cat :(. My husband is a vet and he sees many people going above and beyond for their pets. They ARE family; don’t feel silly about caring for him!

    • Dr. Mom Says:

      Thank you. I didn’t realize your husband was a vet! (Or maybe I did read it but forgot). Fizzy is such a great cat, it will be really sad when he is gone. Right now he appears comfortable and I just hope he stays that way.

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