Q: My cat has lymphoma. I know humans also get this type of cancer. Is it possible for my cat to give me her lymphoma?
A: No. Cancers are not transmitted from pets to people, or for that matter, from one person to another.
Cats infected with FeLV, the feline leukemia virus, are at greater risk of developing lymphoma than cats that were never exposed to the virus.
Yet while infected cats can spread FeLV to other cats, they can’t transmit lymphoma to them — or to humans, even people whose immune systems are suppressed by disease or medication.
Only three cancers are known to be contagious, and these spread only to similar animals.
One is the canine transmissible venereal tumor, which is spread to dogs, wolves, coyotes and foxes through sexual contact, licks and bites. These tumors, which appear on the canine’s genitals, face and occasionally elsewhere, respond well to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
The second contagious cancer is devil facial tumor, which is transmitted among Tasmanian devils when they bite each another. This cancer, which is almost always fatal, is threatening the Tasmanian devil species with extinction.
Finally, a fatal leukemia-like cancer can be transmitted among certain clams.
None of these cancers are contagious to other species, including humans.
Moreover, no other animal or human cancers have ever been transmitted to people, even those with compromised immune systems. So feel free to snuggle with your cat often.
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Q: Our 1-year-old German shepherd seemed to be walking on eggshells, as though every step hurt. His veterinarian diagnosed growing pains and prescribed pain medicine, which is helping.
Please tell us about growing pains in dogs.
A: Growing pains, also called panosteitis or just “pano,” are caused by inflammation (-itis) of every part (pan-) of a bone (-oste-) in one or more legs.
Pano usually develops at 6 to 18 months of age — hence the name “growing pains.” It may recur intermittently until the dog’s skeleton matures at 2 to 2½ years of age, although it has been reported in dogs as old as 5.
While the condition can strike any dog, it arises most often in rapidly growing large- and giant-breed dogs. The prevalence is four times higher in males than females.
The cause is unknown.
Pano may be partially inherited, as it occurs most often in German shepherds and certain other breeds. Veterinary specialists think excessive dietary protein or calcium may also play a role in precipitating the disease.
Clinical signs, which persist for weeks to months, include mild to severe leg pain and lameness, reluctance to move, decreased energy and appetite, and sometimes fever. These clinical signs often wax and wane.
Pano attacks one or more legs and may shift from one leg to another. The front legs are affected four times more often than the hind legs, with the upper bones — the humerus in the front leg and the femur in the rear leg — more often involved than the lower leg bones.
Radiographs, sometimes called X-rays, are frequently normal when the pain begins. The lag time between the onset of leg pain and the appearance of bony changes on the radiographs can be as much as 10 to 14 days.
Treatment consists of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other pain relievers. These medications help ease the discomfort until the disorder resolves on its own. Fortunately, the condition has no long-term effects.