Vaccine Associated Sarcoma (VAS) in cats is supposed to be a rare cancer. But here in the Tripawds Nation, it’s not unheard of. Also called “Feline Injection-site Sarcoma” (FISS), we’ve seen our share of members who have lost a leg to this tumor. Today we’re sharing some VAS cat stories, then read on because you’ll also find more helpful information about VAS.
Meet Tripawds VAS TriKitty Bloggers
Little Man has a great blog called “Little Man: Loving Life on Three Legs.” It’s one of the first Tripawd kitty blogs that discussed Vaccine Associated Sarcoma and how he coped.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Tripawd Kitty Little Man recovers from amputation.[/caption]
Back in May of 2012, my mom found a lump on my left hind leg. She took me to my vet and he did a wedge biopsy. The tumor was a vaccine-associated fibrosarcoma (VAS). He went over all the research with my mom and told her that amputation was my best chance at beating this thing. — Introducing Little Man
After Little Man came TriKitty Mona, whose mom Kerren has taught us so much about this stubborn cancer in cats. As an active member of this community, Kerren is always lending a helping paw to cats and dogs alike and offering helpful tips, no matter the diagnosis.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Mona is back and enjoying life.[/caption]
In her blog post, One Year Later – What I’ve Learned, she writes:
Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcomas in cats is not curable. Hopefully tumour removal through surgery stops it from spreading. Radiation, chemo, and Interleukin 2 only delay re-occurrence. If possible immediate amputation is the best hope to rid the body of VAS if the vaccines are injected low in the leg. My vet and pathologist are confident the cancer left with the leg. All I have is hope. I don’t dwell on it but am thankful for every day she is with me.
Another Tripawd cat with VAS was Jerry. This sweetie’s blog “Three Cats, Eleven Paws” is also filled with helpful insight about coping with a probable VAS tumor. The cancer appeared not once, but multiple times. Eventually it took his life, but his spirit lives on and stays strong.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="499"] This post is dedicated to Angel Jerry, always in our hearts.[/caption]
where the cancer erupted on Jerry, we figured it was not brought on by a vaccination. My vets have a protocol as to where on the animal they will give the vaccination. The cancer erupted on the area of the foot that is equivalent to an ankle in a human. The oncologist I worked with with the radiation therapy when the cancer first showed up said he’d be extremely impressed if any vet could get a vaccination in at the site. The oncologist told me this cancer can also just erupt without a vaccination. — Dealing with a Diagnosis of Cancer
Within the vet community there still seems to be a lot of guesswork when it comes to Vaccine Associated Sarcoma in cats. Here’s what science knows for sure:
Basic Facts About VAS or FISS
According to this helpful information from the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital:
- VAS sarcomas are tumors formed within a cat’s connective tissues. These tumors are usually “fibrosarcomas,” named after the cells found within the tumor.
- VAS tumors occur at vaccination sites; shoulder blades, hips and back legs.
- Certain vaccines, including rabies and feline leukemia are linked to this cancer.
- Genetic predisposition could play a role, but scientists don’t know exactly how.
- Surgical excision is the best way to remove the tumor, but these tumors have many “tentacles” that are difficult to remove.
- Cats with VAS leg tumors have the best odds for beating the cancer.
- Chemotherapy and radiation increase longveity odds of up to 24 month survival time.
- Regardless of treatment, metastasis happens about 10-25 percent of the time.
Information about Vaccine Associated Sarcomas in cats is growing but there’s still much work to be done to find a cure for this type of cat cancer. Like many pet cancers, researchers aren’t quite sure how to prevent it other than advising to “vaccinate discriminately.” When cats do get vaccinated, University of Florida experts advise:
Vaccination on the lower limbs and tail has been advocated, such that amputation of the affected leg or tail can be performed if a tumor should occur.
If you came here for reputable information about VAS / FISS, we hope this helps. Join the Tripawds Discussion Forums for support, and check out these helpful, science-based articles about VAS that we’ve located for you.
Veterinary Cancer Group: Vaccine Associated Sarcomas in Cats (PDF Download)
Got other good articles about VAS in cats that you’d like to share? Comment below and let us know where to locate them. We’ll be sure to add them to this list.
We learn so much from our Tripawd Kitty members! Every new Forums Discussion about three legged cats helps us expand our knowledge so that we can help future felines who join our community. A recent discussion about Tripawd Cat Litterbox Issues was super enlightening!
In this discussion, Sherman’s Mom writes:
He is doing GREAT, he runs and plays and is thriving. . . The only issue is when he is in the litterbox, he seems to have phantom leg issues and tries to cover up his “business” using his amputated leg. He seems to get frustrated and gets his shoulder closer and closer to the litter trying to move it and cover it up. He sometimes ends up getting litter on his face and his belly, and he seems really frustrated. Then eventually he seems to realizes that leg won’t work, and uses his other front leg. It makes me sad to see him struggle, is there some sort of therapy or training I can do with him to help him?
It wasn’t long before our helpful Tripawds kitty members chimed in with suggestions, including:
If your new Tripawd cat is having a hard time with the litterbox, don’t despair. Tripawd kitties are smart and know how to overcome temporary challenges like litterbox woes. Be patient and you’ll soon be amazed by your Tripawd cat’s resiliency. These member blog posts will also give you hope:
My Cliff’s Notes version, based on what I’ve tried so far:
- Pellet litter may be slippery. Clay or something like wheat or corn litter may be a better choice (though note: if there are any wounds or incisions still open, litter may stick to them, so something organic and non-clumping is likely to be your best bet).
- Cats, especially limited-mobility cats, really like to have an entrance and a SEPARATE exit path from the litterbox. To help your tripawd feel extra comfortable, provide them with more than one way to get in/out of the box.
- Low sides are essential, but are likely to contribute to mess.
- Use floor protectors, cheap rugs, old towels, heavy-duty rubber litter mats, etc. to help contain the mess and save your floors/sanity.
. She used her litterbox with no problem, but covering her poop did not happen. I did help her with that.
She plays with her toys and honestly, the fact that she only has three legs doesn’t get in the way or slow her down. We’ve made a few adjustments for it – namely in pillows and boxes for step downs and a larger litter box. . . . What seemed like a death sentence then was really a chance at life.
“mom took the time to set up pet stairs and make a litter box with lower sides just for me. Did I ever use them? Nope. (Sorry, mom.) I guess I am a little bit stubborn. Call me a creature of habit, but I thought enough had changed with the missing leg. I needed everything else to stay the same! Sure, I made a mess with the litter box a time or two, but that’s all good now. “
“So excited that it looks like she’s back on the road to normalcy!!!!!! It was like a lead weight released itself off my shoulders and landed in the litter box!”
“Crumble was right paw dominant. Using the litter tray, batting a toy, testing the water in her bowl, climbing – all of these were approached with the right paw first. We watched as the ghost leg would reach out the stump wave back and forth, before confused, she would switch legs to use her left struggling to hold her balance and visibly aggravated by the lack of expected outcome from the missing leg. The first steps were for us to take; we needed to learn how to read her better and not panic when she fell or run toward her when she growled to find out what was happening.”
“so we haven’t been terribly bent out of shape about him not going #2 since he’s been home.. but remember his displeasure with his tiny litter boxes… today he got into the laundry room and before we found him, he’d hopped into his old box, spun around a few times, squatted and did his biz! My husband and I literally high-fived, and then took a moment to wonder how this was our life.. HAHA.”
“After a long night, B did pee and poop Sunday morning! Here’s what I did for anyone interested. . . Crossing my fingers for another “movement” soon. Wow, the things I didn’t think I would have to be doing today lol”
Do you have Tripawd kitty tips to share? Hop over to the Tripawds Discussion Forums and let us know, we always want to learn from our feline friends!
Dao recently introduced us to kitty hydrotherapy. Who knew?!
Hydrotherapy, is suggested by the vet. Without other options, we took it. . And it seems like miracle happens.. it worked! Yes, you throw a cat in a water treadmill, and 5 sessions later.. he can walk again!!
And finally, Doa Doa following his therapy today… Looking good ! His confidence has improved so much and his balance and co-ordination is really coming along… We are all so pleased with his progress…
(this kitty is not Dao, but an example of cat hydrotherapy. To see Dao in his hydro session, click here).
We especially love how Dao’s people are very honest about his adaptation to life on three legs. Their blog entries show what the “new normal” is like for many, and how important it is to be grateful for every accomplishment we might have once dismissed as a little thing.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="482"] Dao’s new normal is OK by him.[/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="456"] Dao enjoying sunbeams in the garden.[/caption]
He cannot play with ribbons anymore because he cannot run. He will slowly walk, but no longer running. He is very careful with walking, and you know it might fall at some point. He is not too stress about it, but he still has difficulties with balancing if he get up from a lying position. He will cry and ask for help.
The hydrotherapy helps us, from him needing help with walking every steps, to giving him independence. We are absolutely grateful; but we are still adapting to the new life.
It seems not long ago we thought we will lose him to cancer, but when you see him sunbathing in the garden, it’s worth everything.
Follow along with Dao’s three-legged adventures: Dao the Chinese Cat.
Share Your Story on Tripawd Tuesday
Each Tuesday, Tripawds from around the world can enter for a chance to be “Tripawd of the Week.” Just share your Tripawd’s story and you’re entered to win! On every Tuesday of the week, tell us about your three-legged hero here in the Tripawds Discussion Forums or on the Tripawds Facebook page. Just follow these easy steps:
- In a few short sentences, describe your three-legged hero’s story.
- Include a photo or video.
- Include a link to your Tripawds Facebook page, Forum topic and/or Tripawds blog (if applicable)
All entries must be received by Saturday at 11:59 pm. One Tripawd story will be selected at random to be featured the following Tuesday.