Feeding a sick cat: how to reconquer the feline palate?


It is very difficult when they tell us that our cat has cancer. We often have feelings of bewilderment and guilt (‘How could I have prevented it?’) And we inevitably need time to get to the idea that you really suffer from this disease. In the vast majority of cases it is not known what has caused a tumor to appear, making prevention of this impossible. In any case, in many of the tumors diagnosed (although not in all) it is possible to carry out a treatment that improves the quality of life of the cat and that significantly lengthens it.

You should always discuss in depth with your veterinarian what type of cancer your cat is suffering from and what treatment options are available. Some of them are used by almost all veterinary clinics, while others can only be administered by specialized centers. Depending on the tumor that has been diagnosed, your veterinarian may recommend you go to one of these centers so you can have more treatment options at your fingertips. This may give you a new opportunity to talk and ask about your cat's disease in depth, but the performance of new tests and the choice of treatment will only be done with your consent.

When starting cancer treatment, it is important that all people involved have a common goal. The goal of the veterinarian is to achieve a good quality of life without serious side effects due to treatment. Ideally, this objective also includes lengthening the survival time (and usually achieved) although it is very important to avoid that an extension of life means an unnecessary lengthening of pain or suffering in its final moments. Inevitably, the time will come when we should consider euthanasia. This is a very difficult time, and it helps to have previously talked about it with your veterinarian, and to know what parameters we should use to judge the quality of life of our cat. It is also very important to have the support of friends and family.

There are three main forms of cancer treatment - surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The one used for a certain type of cancer depends on several factors: the type of cancer, its location in the body, the presence or absence of metastases (spread of the tumor to other points of the body) and what form of treatment is within reach. If you have questions or questions, do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian for more information.

Surgery in cancer patients
Surgery is the most frequent form of cancer treatment, and the one with the highest probability can result in a cure. It may have different objectives depending on the circumstances, but a cure (complete removal of the tumor) is not always possible because some tumors spread rapidly to adjacent tissues, or they can spread to other places (metastases). This is one of the reasons why early diagnosis and treatment can improve the long-term prognosis considerably.
The different objectives of the surgery are:

    Obtain a biopsy (a sample of tissue> The surgery itself can cause pain and suffering, and inevitably carries risks that vary from one patient to another. Again, you can discuss with your veterinarian the benefits and risks in advance so you can make the best decision for your cat You can also discuss what pain relievers can be used during and after surgery, and what postoperative care you will need.


Radiation therapy is a concept that scares many people because it is often believed to be associated with numerous side effects. But as in other forms of cancer treatment in cats, its objective is to improve the quality of life and eliminate any discomfort derived from the tumor without causing any additional suffering. Radiation therapy can achieve these goals in many types of cancer.

Unfortunately its availability is restricted and it is very likely that your veterinarian should refer you to another specialized center to receive this treatment. Radiation therapy almost always consists of what is known as “external radiation” - it is similar to X-rays. A machine is used to throw a beam of radiation on the tumor, although this radiation is much more intense than what the machines produce X-ray. This radiation produced has the ability to kill tumor cells, but it can also affect healthy cells. That is why it is necessary to calculate very precisely the dose and frequency of radiotherapy, as well as to focus the beam of radiation on the tumor, in order to kill only tumor cells without affecting the healthy tissues that surround them. Although radiation therapy is used to kill tumor cells, this does not mean that your cat once treated becomes "radioactive" and there is no risk to people in contact with the cat.

Radiation therapy requires a general anesthetic of short duration, and several treatments are usually administered (each lasting only a few minutes) for a period of about 3 to 5 weeks. Radiation therapy has the ability to cure some solid tumors, while others can be reduced and controlled for long periods of time. Although inevitably the normal tissue surrounding the tumor always suffers some damage, in most cases it is minimal and does not cause significant side effects. The specialist who will carry out the treatment will discuss with you what pain control methods exist, in case the cancer produces it. Radiation therapy by itself does not cause pain, on the contrary, it is a good method of eliminating pain caused by some tumors. One of the most frequent side effects is skin irritation and hair loss at the radiation site - but there are medications that can control it if necessary. Vomiting or nausea are very rare. Cats tolerate radiation therapy better than most animals and humans, and suffer fewer side effects.

Sometimes another form of radiation therapy called brachytherapy is used. In it radiation sources are brought into contact with areas inside the body or its surface (using a probe) to expose the tumor to radiation therapy. This allows a much more localized form of radiotherapy and can be used, for example, to treat some types of squamous cell carcinoma.

Depending on the type of tumor to be treated, radiation therapy is often used in combination with surgery and / or chemotherapy. Some types of chemotherapy increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy (medication treatment)
Like radiotherapy, thinking about chemotherapy involves many prejudices. Many people have friends or family members who have received chemotherapy and have suffered strong side effects due to treatment. Although anticancer drugs can, and sometimes are, produce side effects in animals, most people are surprised and relieved how well cats tolerate chemotherapy. This is partly because cats tolerate treatment better, but also because many times lower doses are used so as not to affect their quality of life.

There is a wide variety of medications available to treat cancer, and which one will be chosen depends on the type of tumor, which we have available and how the cat tolerates the treatment. Your veterinarian will discuss all these points with you and if you deem it necessary you will be referred to a specialist. A combination of medications is used to treat most tumors, so that the amount administered is reduced, minimizing the possibility of side effects. In this way you can attack tumor cells in different ways.

Most (but not all) of the drugs used in chemotherapy act by interfering with the ability to divide cells (one of the characteristics of cancer cells is their growth and constant and uncontrolled division). Side effects result from interference with healthy body cells that also divide rapidly, such as those in the bone marrow, intestinal tract and skin. These effects can be:

- Bone marrow suppression - This causes a low number of white blood cells. The cells usually affected first are a type of white blood cell known as neutrophils. When the chemotherapy used affects the bone marrow, it is important to take blood samples on a regular basis to monitor the white blood cell count (usually 7 to 10 days after administration). If the white blood cell count is too low, usually the dose and / or frequency of the chemotherapeutic agent is reduced, and antibiotics may be prescribed temporarily. Platelets (the cells present in the blood that are associated with coagulation) can also be affected sometimes by chemotherapy and their values ​​are also checked when routine blood samples are taken.

- Hair loss - Although human hair loss is one of the most obvious side effects of chemotherapy, in cats it is rare. When it occurs, only mustaches are usually affected and widespread hair loss is extremely rare.

- Gastrointestinal irritation - Several of the medications used to treat cats can cause irritation in the intestinal tract a few days after administration. This irritation can manifest itself in the form of vomiting and nausea or sometimes only as lethargy and lack of appetite. When this occurs the dose of the medication can be altered and / or other medications can be administered to eliminate these effects. It is helpful to keep a diary of your cat's behavior while receiving chemotherapy, including notes on each vomit and diarrhea that has occurred, and the cat's appetite. If at any time you are concerned about the possible occurrence of side effects associated with the treatment, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Other side effects generally depend on the medication used - some have the potential to damage the kidneys or heart, and very careful monitoring and dosing are required for use. However, in general, less than 20 percent of cats under treatment experience some type of side effect.

Some medications can be administered as tablets, but others must be administered by your veterinarian as an injection. Some of these injections must be administered carefully into a vein (blood vessel) as they can cause severe tissue irritation if they are injected out of the vein. This is why it is very common for a catheter to be inserted into the vein (usually on one leg) and for the medication to be administered through it - some medications in small volumes, others must be dissolved in fluid bags that are slowly administered in a form Infusion Most injectable chemotherapy treatments are performed at intervals of one to four weeks.

Do I need to take any special precautions if my cat is undergoing chemotherapy?
Because many medications used to treat cancer can affect healthy cells as well as tumor cells (in humans and cats), unnecessary exposure to these medications should be avoided. This includes any unnecessary handling of these medications, and also exposure to the remains of medication present in the feces and urine produced by a cat being treated (also in other body fluids, such as saliva or vomit). If simple precautions are taken, this exposure and the risk involved can be minimized:

- Your veterinarian will notify you if you are prescribed to administer at home tablets that are potentially harmful. If this is the case, these tablets should not be cut or turned into powder - they wear a protective layer that is designed to avoid direct contact with the medicine. Ideally they should be administered with disposable protective gloves. If your cat spits the pill, you can pick it up (wearing gloves), wrap it in paper towels and throw it down the toilet.

-Most medications are eliminated through urine and feces, and the highest concentration of these occurs in the first few days after treatment. Even in this case, the amount of excreted medication is very low, but it is safer to wear disposable gloves to clean the sand tray, and introduce the dirty sand into a tightly closed plastic bag in the trash can. If your cat urinates and defecates in the garden, it is not necessary to take any special precautions.

- If you need to wash the place where your cat sleeps (or your blanket etc.), you must do it separately from the rest of the clothes. Your bowl of food and water should also be scrubbed separately.

These simple precautions will help you ensure that any potential exposure to medications is being reduced to a minimum.

General and palliative care
As we have explained above, it is useful to keep a diary of the behavior, appetite and any abnormality that your cat presents (vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, lethargy etc.) as well as notes on when the medication is administered. This will help you and your veterinarian when deciding if further research or additional treatments are necessary.

An important part of caring for your cat with cancer should be to maintain a good nutritional intake. To help maintain a good appetite, you must offer a sufficient variety of foods, until you find the one you want. In general, good quality commercial cat food is the best choice for a cat with cancer, although sometimes special dietary considerations have to be taken into account. Offering a slightly warmed meal may make it more palatable, but sometimes, depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to place a feeding tube to overcome the problems associated with insufficient food intake. A significant lack of appetite, or a complete loss of appetite may be indicative of an underlying problem such as the presence of pain or side effects associated with the treatment, which should be investigated in detail. Your veterinarian will work together with you to try to overcome these problems and give your cat optimal care.

The main objective when caring for cats with cancer is to ensure a good quality of life, pain free. Palliative care is a very important part of your treatment, and in addition to the use of analgesic medications there are other therapies (depending on the circumstances) within your cat's reach. These include the use of antibiotics when there are secondary bacterial infections complicating the condition, or the use of anti-inflammatories on those occasions when the swelling and inflammation associated with a tumor are problematic.

Never be afraid or ashamed to ask questions and request how much information you think is necessary about the cancer that affects your cat and its treatment options. If at any time you are concerned about anything related to cancer or possible side effects of treatment, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Feed the sick cat, how to regain his appetite?

Cats, in general, are little tolerant of food changes, and even more so if they are sick. Therefore, it is advisable to maintain the usual dietary guidelines that the cat willingly accepts.

However, it is possible that the sick cat is reluctant to his usual feed and you have to introduce variations in the dish that arouse your appetite. "The juicy food, like cans, it is usually a claim for the feline's palate, and if it is heated for a few seconds in the microwave oven, it will be attracted to the aroma, which will have a more unctuous texture, "explains Ana Cameno, veterinarian.

In some cases, sick cats also need a extra contribution of energy or calories, Y specific feed for puppies They cover these nutritional needs. This type of food is formulated for both growing animals and pregnant cats and convalescent cats.

However, each sick cat will need a different diet, depending on its diagnosis. Also, in the market there are feed of therapeutic nature that the veterinarian can prescribe to the pet, depending on his illness and nutritional needs.

My sick cat has lost>

Each sick cat has different nutritional needs, so a veterinary diagnosis is essential to know what kind of food you need

The Causes whereby a sick cat can lose appetite are diverse. Sometimes, it happens that the remedy is complicated, because it is a chronic disease, like the cat's leishmania.

On other occasions, loss of appetite has a more common origin: the animal is constipated and, having clogged nostrils, loses olfactory capacity, therefore, their food is not palatable. In this case, just clear your airways so that you feed again with your usual feed.

Hydration, food and tranquility for the sick cat

Fasting a cat for two days can have serious consequences for his health, because "in the felines hepatic lipidosis occurs when they do not ingest fat, which can trigger a malfunction of the liver and the death of the animal, "Cameno warns. Therefore, it is essential that the patient feed and drink fluid.

To achieve this, you can take into account certain guidelines at home, including keep the feeder and drinker close to the cat.

Stress is one of the causes why the sick cat can lose appetite

The mobility of a sick cat may be reduced due to pain. Under these circumstances, care must be taken not to reduce the cat's food and water intake. A sick cat that neither eats nor drinks enough water may take longer to recover, worsen your symptoms, if it is a chronic pathology, and even add to your state kidney and urinary problems, such as infections. Therefore, to ensure that the feline with reduced mobility does not have to make efforts when he wants to eat, it is advisable to place his bowl of food and water next to him.

The stress It can block the cat's appetite, especially if it is sick or convalescent. Therefore, it is appropriate to ensure that the cat can eat in a place where there is no discomfort or noise to dissuade him from going to the plate of food.

Another key is keep your plate always with food.

Vitamins and minerals for the sick cat

High-end cat feeds, such as therapeutics, "are formulated with all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that the feline needs to overcome a convalescent state or alleviate the symptoms of chronic diseases," explains Ignacio Arija, veterinarian specializing in animal nutrition and professor at the Complutense University of Madrid.

Therefore, in principle, "it is not necessary, with this type of feed so complete, an extra supply of vitamins for the cat"explains Arija. The key is to go to the veterinarian so that he can determine the need for these supplements in each case.