Feline Injection Site Sarcoma :-(

Beth’s Kitty after Biopsy Surgery…

I have a 13 year old female cat who has never had any real medical issues her whole life, who now has Fibrosarcoma in her rear right leg due to a 3yr rabies vaccine she received  this past summer.  The tumor was removed but to insure it will not recur  she will need to have her leg amputated.  To make matters worse, she was found to have a large cyst on her liver upon pre-surgical examination.  Now I have to make a very difficult decision.  In spite of everything she is a very healthy cat (her liver enzymes are normal.).  I don’t know what to do.   I wish I could take the vaccine back.  At the time of the injection I was told that the odds of developing the sarcoma was 1 in 10,000.  I think vets are fooling themselves and misleading their clients with these statistics.  I think we need to start questioning and researching before assuming the vets always know best.  I like my vet’s office but I am not sure anymore if vets always have their patients best interest in mind.           -Beth-

Hey Beth… I don’t even know what to say, except I am so sorry that you and your kitty are having to go through this unnecessary nightmare.  I am also so angry as the medical condition known as Feline Injection Site Sarcoma (Fibrosarcoma) or Vaccination Associated Sarcoma is more commonly found then we are led to believe by some of our veterinarians… the same conclusion you have come to.  I have actually seen the statistic 1 in 1,000 cats will develop a FISS many times when doing research on the topic.  And, based on the hundreds of accounts I have heard from so many pet owners, I tend to believe the statistic showing a higher prevalence exists.  Perhaps the huge difference in reported cases of FISS is due to the lack of proper reporting when FISS occurs.

Of interest…    In 1993, a causal relationship between VAS and administration of aluminum adjuvanted rabies and FeLV vaccines was established through epidemiologic methods, and in 1996 the Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force was formed to address the problem.  There have also been similarities found between injection site tumors in dogs as well (Wikipedia).   

Rabies & Feline Leukemia Vaccines have been Linked to Feline Injection Site Sarcoma…

For the record, I am not opposed to vaccinations, rather I am vehemently opposed to OVER vaccinating when it is not necessary, particularly for low risk indoor only pets.  I have been Titer testing my pets instead of booster vaccinating for most of the vaccines (except Rabies as it is NYS mandated by law to vaccinate every three years).   It is more expensive to Titer test, but it prevents unnecessary vaccinations and potential for adverse events like FISS.   I have posted on the  vaccination controversy many times on my blog in the hopes that even one person will read a different opinion and do their own research and draw their own conclusions.  A question I asked myself over 15 years ago was this, “why do we (humans) get vaccinated once as infants (plus a booster) for serious and sometimes life threatening diseases like Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps, Polio, etc., but our pets are vaccinated yearly for many viruses (Parvo, Rabies, Feline Leukemia, etc)?  Honestly, there is no logical answer except that there has to be some kind of incentive for someone or some company to promote annual vaccinations because there is so much research out there to show duration of immunity is much longer than one year for many, if not most of the viruses.  Fortunately, several vaccine protocols that were formerly recommended to be on an annual basis have been changed to every three years including Rabies.

Did you know that one of the reasons cats now get the Rabies and Feline Leukemia vaccines in their back legs is because if a Fibrosarcoma develops the cats leg (and tumor) can be amputated.  Whereas the original vaccination site, between the shoulder blades, makes it virtually impossible to remove all of a tumor!  Frightening and pretty sad really.

Vaccinations and the required booster protocols remain a hotly debated topic, but check out this link for a 14 minute interview of pet vaccination expert, Dr. Ronald Schultz, by Dr. Karen Becker for a better understanding:  http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/06/21/expert-proof-most-pets-are-vaccinated-way-too-often.aspx.  Worth noting, Dr. Schultz has served on many vaccination related advisory boards and task force groups over his 40+ year career including the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force in 1996.

Feline Fibrosarcoma (Source: Veterinarianjoske.tumblr.com)

With regard to your next steps and the very difficult decisions you must now make for your kitty… It really depends on how large the tumor was and if your veterinarian was able to get clean margins when doing the surgical biopsy/removal of the tumor.  And, whether or not the tumor has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the kitty’s body…the spot on your kitty’s lung is probably not a good sign.  You must weigh many factors including age, general health, metastasis, long term prognosis (success rates), and, unfortunately, cost when considering if leg amputation is even a viable option.  I must say that I have seen several people have good outcomes when their cats had the rear leg amputation surgery though in all of those cases the cats were younger and the tumors were detected very early on.  Radiation and/or chemotherapy are also options for your kitty, but all of these factors and possibilities must be discussed with your veterinarian.

If you decide to not to go ahead with the leg amputation, you can still employ many of the diet and supplement therapies I’ve discussed in previous posts to boost your cat’s immune system (http://blogger.thepetsperspective.com/canine-cancer/ most of the diet, herb and supplements referred to in this post apply to cats as well).  With a little effort your kitty may still have many more healthy months or years ahead.  My heart is very heavy for you and your beloved kitty at this time, but try to stay positive and cautiously optimistic.

NOTE:  This most recent story from Beth has provided yet another reason for me to continue on this journey of educating pet owners on the many important topics that face us.  For anyone interested in learning more on this very important topic, I will be hosting the world renowned expert veterinary immunologist, Dr. Ronald Schultz, on April 20, 2013 in Cheektowaga, NY.  For more details check out:  http://blogger.thepetsperspective.com/dr-ronald-schultz-seminar-4-20-13/.

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3 Responses to Feline Injection Site Sarcoma :-(

  1. avatar jennifer says:

    I found a small lump behind the shoulder blade of my 8yr old female kitty a few weeks ago. I never knew that this was a risk. she’s going to get checked out tomorrow and I really hope she’s not sick. I’m really really worried because I’m afraid I won’t have the financial resources to get her the treatment she may need if she is sick. I just feel I can’t trust any doctor in the medical community, whether human or animal. Big Pharma is working to make as much money as they can!

  2. avatar Greg Weston says:

    I am sorry to hear about your kitty’s fibro-sarcoma. Our 14+ year old female named Panther was diagnosed with vaccine induced fibro-sarcoma in January of 2013. I noticed a lump about half the size of ping pong ball on her rear left hip mid December 2012. My vet first did a needle biopsy but it did not show anything; although my vet strongly suspected vaccine induced fibro-sarcoma. The lump continued to grow and this time my vet did a tissue biopsy. It confirmed the fibro-sarcoma.
    Based on Panther’s age, the feedback from my vet, and the research I did we decided to not do surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Unfortunately, from what I learned it is very rare that a cat will live for more than a year after a fibro-sarcoma diagnosis is confirmed. I did not want Panther to go through a traumatic experience in her last months of life. Instead I opted for a homeopathic non-invasive treatment.
    I believe the treatment slowed the rate of growth of the tumor but unfortunately it did not put the cancer in remission. The tumor split wide open last night and our vet told us that once they open up they never heal. We made the decision to have Panther put to sleep today May 29, 2013. She would have been 15 next month. A lot of tears were shed. She will be missed. She made it a little over 5 months from when we first noticed the tumor. Her quality of life was very good right up until the last week. Her activity level and appetite gradually declined but she maintained her typical routines until the last week.
    Panther was strictly an indoor cat. If I had to do it over again I don’t think I would have had her get annual rabies shot. I strongly believe there are a lot more vaccine induced fibro sarcomas than what are reported. There is no incentive for the vaccine manufacturers to report the numbers. I understand inhalable vaccines may be available soon. Perhaps someone else reading this with more knowledge on the subject reading can address the inahalables. I wish all the best for you and your pet whatever course of treatment you decide on.

  3. avatar boots says:

    Beth, my 14 year old cat, Felix , was diagnosed recently with vacine induced feline sarcoma located below his left shoulder blade. Cat scans show that there is a mass in his lung and that rules out the option of surgery. I’m told by the oncologist that cheno is useless on this cancer, but that a series of radiation treatments would shrink the tumor in his shoulder. Since lung tumors( according to the oncologist) are slow growing this could make him more comfortable and even extend his life for x period of time. I would like any opinions on this treatment from others.

    I had never heard of this tumor and now I find that vets have know about it for years and yet they go ahead and vaccinate. My feeling is that these vaccinations are a great source of revenue not only to the vets but the vaccine co. Of course I’m bitter and heart broken as Felix is a very healthy indoor cat and could have lived for quite a few more yers.
    Thank you Dr. Shultz for your information.

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