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nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:06 am
by cairojones
Nellie is my tiny black cat who is now 2.5 years old. She had a bad start - I got her from a rescue where she was handed in after being found on her own in the street. They told me she was 12 weeks old. I picked her because she was the mankiest scrawniest ugliest little kitten in the room but I fell in love with her when she pushed her way past all the other kittens and stood in front of me gazing into my eyes. I got her home and realised quickly that she didn't know how to eat so I had to hand feed her and teach her but it was obvious she hadn't been weaned properly and she seemed very under-sized for 12 weeks. I took her to the vet who told me she was only six weeks old. I was absolutely disgusted with the rescue who should have taken better care of her and at least been able to tell how old she was.

This is the point of the post. A couple of months later she developed a skin problem. She was losing clumps of hair with roots and skin attached and developed bald patches with little red pustules at the base of her ears, in her groin, hocks and the end of her tail. She wasn't itchy though, I didn't see her scratching.The vet said it was dermatitis and gave anti biotics. She had a terrible reaction to them and I thought I was going to lose her. She was very poorly for two weeks but recovered and has been fine until a couple of weeks ago when the skin thing recurred. Another vet visit, different anti biotics for a week but it didn't clear up. Went back and she had an anti inflammatory injection but again it didn't clear up. We went back yesterday and the vet was concerned it might be skin cancer. He's booked her in for a biopsy under anaesthetic next week.

I feel a bit shell shocked and have spent most of yesterday in tears but now I've had time to think about it I can't make sense of it. If it was cancer surely it wouldn't go away then come back two years later. Also now I'm not sure about the biopsy. Should the vet not be doing skin scrapes first? I don't want to put her through an anaesthetic unless it's absolutely necessary.

Thank you for reading this far. If anybody has any words of wisdom I would be glad to hear them.

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:53 am
by Jacks
Hello Nellie's mum!

No, it doesn't make sense to me. Cancer doesn't manifest in this way and there are SO many other skin conditions that aren't directly related to fleas. I think you're right and I would ask if someone else could take a look, and maybe a swab and skin scrapes. This would make MUCH more sense to me, although I'm not a physician. You eliminate bacteria or other causes before moving on to cancer... Plus there are a variety of local sites, all of which could be related to fleas, if she has a flea allergy - she will pull her hair out and come up in red sores, even if it was only one flea. I have a little girl who has a flea allergy. She had a month of anti-inflammatory injections to get the better of it... and of course flea treatment.

The other thing is to make sure that it's noted that she's allergic to the particular antibiotic she was given - there are many others; in humans allergy to certain antibiotics is really serious and you're always asked if you're allergic before a prescription for penicillin, for example. Unfortunately cats don't know these things and can't talk!

Take a look at this Google search: ... 610#imgrc=_" onclick=";return false;

I did an 'image search' on 'skin dermatitis in cats'. Are any of these images like your girl? One of them took me to this site, which might be useful: ... ms-in-cats" onclick=";return false;

You'll see the picture of skin cancer is very different - it's a highly localised tumour, not an outbreak of sores in many sites on the body.

If you can get a picture of Nellie's problem skin, perhaps you can put a link to it here and folks can take a look.

But whatever, don't think the worst case scenario has to be the case! I think it's more likely that with her bad start in life (and thank goodness you rescued her and love her) she doesn't have the immunity to parasites and other things that she should have - so she is vulnerable.

Hope others will reply too - let us know what you think of the pictures; although they look horrible it just shows you're not alone.

Thinking of you and lovely Nellie. x

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:59 am
by Kay
I would strongly recommend a second opinion too - skin conditions are notorously difficult to diagnose, and referral to a vet who specializes in this area might prove to be a lot cheaper in the long run, as well as more likely to result in a cure for your girl

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 11:30 am
by cairojones
Hey Jacks, thanks very much for your reply. Nellie's problem looks very much like the third picture along on the first link you sent. I'm going crazy here, have looked at so many different sites with so much different information.

I think on Monday I'm going to ask for a second opinion and question whether or not she needs to be anaesthetised at this stage. I was so freaked out at the vet yesterday that I didn't think to ask the relevant questions, just believed the vet. In retrospect I don't think he should have said the C word at this stage and it makes more sense to me to check for other things first.

Nellie has had flea treatment (stronghold) a few weeks ago and she is not ill at all. She's eating like a horse, running around outside and loving her cuddles.

Just hope I can get her sorted out without too much hassle!

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 11:41 am
by catsue
I agree with Jacks and Kay. I'm not a vet and you should always take the advice of a qualified vet, but I would get a second opinion. Although not specialists, many vets have a special interest in different things, so it may be worth ringing round the vets in your area to see if there is anyone with more experience of skin problems. If not, then it may be necessary to go to a specialist. Apart from the end of the tail (usually it's the base of the tail), all the other areas are classic places a cat bites or licks at for things like a flea allergy or stress. Skin problems can sometimes be treated very easily, but they can also be notoriously difficult to diagnose, with treatment working but nobody really knowing what is causing a particular problem. We had a cat come into rescue a couple of years ago (who has now been adopted by her fosterer) and she had a long term problem with licking and biting at the skin on her stomach, making it sore and even bleeding. Over a period of months, all the usual things were tried, steroids, antibiotics, allergy tests (which usually show what it's not rather than what it is), skin scrapes, and it would clear up but then come back again. Eventually she went to a vet who was very experienced in skin problems and he put her on Atopica (a different type of steroid). She has to have it all the time but it worked a treat and her skin has cleared up.

For info, if by any chance Nellie does end up on Atopica it is very expensive (over £100 a bottle from the vet but it does last a couple of months), but we get a prescription and buy it from the VetUK website and its nearly half the price.

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 11:44 am
by Jacks
Definitely get another opinion and I like Kay's and Catsue's suggestion of a skin specialist. The description of picture 3 sounds very appropriate for your girl's condition, particularly the chronic and recurrent aspect, plus needing steroids to treat (so simple anti-inflammatory may not be enough??). Could be caused by a number of things, none of them cancer...

If I were you I'd print off some information and pictures to take along. No harm in doing your own research - a Nellie's mum you have her best interests at heart, more so than anyone else.

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 11:48 am
by catsue
Have just seen your post - you must have been writing it at the same time I was. :) It's totally understandable that you were freaking out when the vet mentioned cancer and I think you're making the right decision about getting a second opinion. Out of interest, have you treated the environment for fleas recently? If there are fleas loose in the house (and they have been a big problem again this year) then they'll just keep jumping on Nellie and biting her before they die.

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 12:14 pm
by cairojones
Thanks everybody for your replies. Definitely no fleas in the house, I have another cat and a dog and they are both fine.

Going to go for a second opinion definitely, it seems silly to just assume it's cancer without ruling out other possibilities first.

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:04 pm
by greenkitty
I'd also be inclined to get a second opinion, there's so many other things it could be, I wouldn't be jumping to the skin cancer conclusion at this stage. Have they done a skin scrape to check mites, ringworm etc?

It could also be a food allergy, it might be worth trying an elimination diet with her.

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:17 pm
by Crewella
I agree too, a second opinion, and ideally from someone who specialises in skin complaints, would be valuable at this stage. Don't worry, I think we all have a stage of panic before we really absorb the information and start to ask the right questions. You're doing all the right things, and keep researching to arm yourself with as much info as you can - good luck. xx

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:37 pm
by Mich1000
Hi, this may sound silly and is no way directed at you as a cat owner, but my cat lost chunks and chunks of fur - leaving her half bald- and my vet diagnosed depression. There were absolutely no changes at home other then we had moved 2 years previously and she had just never settled as well in the new house. No other behavioural problems at all. Anyway, I was given anti-depressants for a couple of weeks. When they ran out I didn't take her back at first as I wanted to see how she was, and she was like a new cat! It was very strange. This was 6 months ago and we have recently moved again and she is absolutely fine. I would be inclined to go down more avenues before biopsy. I don't wish to bad mouth your vet but they seem to have jumped straight to the most expensive option.....good luck xx

Re: nellie may have cancer but it makes no sense to me

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2015 7:26 pm
by bobbys girl
Let me get this right. The condition cleared up then came back at a later date. I'm not an expert, but I've never heard of any cancer doing that (not without radical treatment).

It DOES sound like an allergy to something. Humans can develop an allergy to almost anything at almost anytime. Perhaps cats are the same.

I hope you get to the bottom of this very soon. It sounds very uncomfortable for Nellie and very distressing for both of you.