You Can’t Catch Cancer From Your Cat

Q My cat has lymphoma. I know that humans also have this type of cancer. Is it possible for my cat to pass on his lymphoma to me?

A: No. Cancers are not transmitted from pets to humans, or for that matter, from person to person.

Cats infected with FeLV, the feline leukemia virus, are at greater risk of developing lymphoma than cats that have never been exposed to the virus. Yet while infected cats can transmit FeLV to other cats, they cannot transmit lymphoma to them — or to humans, even to people whose immune systems have been weakened by disease or medication.

Only three cancers are known to be contagious, and these have only spread to similar animals.

One is canine transmissible venereal tumor, which is transmitted to dogs, wolves, coyotes and foxes through sexual contact, licking and biting. These tumors, which appear on the dog’s genitals, face, and sometimes elsewhere, respond well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The second contagious cancer is the devil’s facial tumor, which is transmitted between Tasmanian devils when they bite each other. This cancer, which is almost always fatal, threatens the species of Tasmanian devil with extinction.

Finally, a deadly leukemia-like cancer can be transmitted in some clams.

None of these cancers are contagious to other species, including humans.

Moreover, no other animal or human cancer has ever been transmitted to humans, even those with weakened immune systems. So don’t hesitate to snuggle up with your cat often.

Q: Our one-year-old German Shepherd seemed to be walking on eggshells, like every step hurt. Her vet diagnosed growing pains and prescribed pain medication, which is helping. Tell us about growing pains in dogs.

A: Growing pains, also called panosteitis or simply “pano”, are caused by inflammation (-itis) of each part (pan-) of a bone (-oste-) in one or more legs.

Pano usually develops between 6 and 18 months, hence the name “growing pains”. It can reproduce intermittently until the dog’s skeleton matures between 2 and 2.5 years of age, although it has been reported in dogs as old as 5 years old.

Although the disease can strike any dog, it most commonly occurs in large and fast growing giant breed dogs. The prevalence is four times higher in men than in women.

The cause is unknown. Pano can be partially hereditary, as it occurs most often in German Shepherds and some other breeds. Veterinary specialists believe that excess dietary protein or calcium could also play a role in precipitating the disease.

Clinical signs, which persist for weeks or months, include mild to severe pain and lameness in the legs, reluctance to move, decreased energy and appetite, and sometimes fever. These clinical signs often increase and decrease.

Pano attacks one or more legs and can switch between legs. The front legs are affected four times more often than the back legs, with the upper bones – the humerus of the front leg and the femur of the back leg – being affected more often than the bones of the lower leg.

X-rays, sometimes called X-rays, are often normal when the pain begins. The delay between the onset of leg pain and the appearance of bone changes on X-rays can be up to 10 to 14 days.

Treatment is with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other painkillers. These medications help ease the discomfort until the disorder resolves on its own. Fortunately, the condition has no long term effects.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

[email protected]