As pet owners, we cannot imagine anything going wrong with our pet's health. Especially when the doctor mumbles the 'Big C' word, we tend to remain in a trance. It is just impossible for our delicate feline friend to be struck by something so horrendous as bone marrow cancer in cats. This is a plasma cell disease that strikes felines who are senior citizens of their world. The following paragraphs will cover information related to this grave and disturbing cat illness and help you learn how to deal with this fatal disease.
What is Bone Marrow Cancer in Cats?
Bone marrow cancer is known by the name multiple myeloma in cats. It is one of the most rare forms of feline leukemia that involves less than 1% of all malignant neoplasms in cats. The cancer originates in the bone marrow and may soon affect other organs in the body. The plasma cells are affected due to this cancer. The progress of the disease in cats is similar to its proliferation in humans. Also, as this cancer is considerably rare in cats, information related to it is a bit sketchy.
The plasma cells are specialized white blood cells that produce immunoglobulin. This protein is an antibody that helps fight off infectious diseases. This cancer seems to affect cats in the age group of 6 to 13 years. In order to diagnose multiple myeloma in cats, one needs to spot four diagnostic features.
First, the high levels of immune protein should be present from a single clone of cells called monoclonal gammopathy during protein electrophoresis. Second, the number of cancerous plasma cells should be high in the bone marrow called plasmacytosis. Thirdly, there should be the presence of areas of lytic bone lesions (bone destruction) and lastly, the urinalysis of the cat should show the presence of Bence Jones proteinuria. These are light chain proteins present in high numbers in cat urine.
The plasma cells in the bone marrow that help fight bacterial and viral infections turn cancerous. The plasma cell DNA tends to copy itself again and again, leading to multiple myeloma. These cancerous cells are present in the blood and bone marrow. The cause of this abnormal behavior of the plasma cells is unclear.
The symptoms of multiple myeloma depends on the bone infiltration and destruction of bones by cancerous cells. Also, the proteins produced by the cancerous cells tend to have their effect on the cat's body. This includes increase in proteins and causes the blood to thicken. Thus, it causes stress on the heart and decrease in oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. The cat begins to suffer from heart diseases, kidney problems, eye damage, etc.
The symptoms include:
- Generalized discomfort
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Bladder incontinence
- Labored breathing
- Bleeding from nose
- Bleeding within the eye
- Partial or total blindness in one or both eyes
- Excessive bleeding from injection sites
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive weight loss
The symptoms are similar to other health issues in cats. Thus, the doctor will conduct a number of blood tests, urinalysis, etc., to diagnose bone marrow. He will even suggest X-rays of the vertebra and limbs. This helps in spotting bone lesions due to effect of cancerous cells.
The treatment involves the cat to be hospitalized. This happens if the cat shows high levels of urea and calcium in blood. If the cat is bleeding excessively or suffers from a bacterial infection, the veterinarian will suggest hospitalization. In order to improve the cat's health, the doctor may suggest radiation therapy. Aggressive antibiotics will be administered to cure bacterial infections. Chemotherapy will further weaken the immune system, thus, the owner will have to take a lot of care of the cat. This will prevent infections from further weakening the frail health of the cat.
The cat will be given chemotherapy for 16 months at the most. However, the survival rate for bone marrow cancer in cats is about a few days to six months. If the cat does not seem to improve after chemotherapy, euthanasia is suggested after about 6 months of diagnosis. Multiple myeloma in cats is a rare form of cancer. No one expects their pet to fall prey to any form of cancer or illness. If it does happen, one has to be the pillar of support for their pet and do everything to help ease the pain of their friend. The cat has been your constant companion since the day it arrived in your life. Make sure you be there for the cat when it needs you the most.