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Cat's Owners Worried About Rodent Ulcer

February 09, 1989|DR. GLENN ERICSON | Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: Our Kitty adopted us about 1 1/2 years ago, and at that time she was probably 1 1/2 years old. She has what the vet calls rodents disease on her upper lip. The vets(I've had second and third opinions) have tried everything they know and cannot cure poor Kitty. My vet has been consulting with a vet who specializes in animal skin diseases.

The only results were seen when she was given a megadose steroid injection and a DiTrim antibiotic for 7 days afterward. But within 4 weeks, the disease was back and spreading much faster. Our vet is reluctant to continue the megadose of steroids because of side effects.

We are all at a loss. Kitty does not seem to be in any pain and she has always eaten really well. I have also changed her diet several times at the vet's suggestion to see if it might be an allergy.

If you can come up with any other suggestions, we are willing to try most anything.

Mr. & Mrs. D. Dennison,

Fountain Valley

A: From your description in your letter, your cat's condition is commonly referred to as "rodent ulcer," which is part of a complicated disorder known as the Eosinophillic granuloma complex. The actual cause of this disease is still unknown. It is not particularly associated with any other diseases. It generally affects the upper lip and appears as a deep ulcer or sore. Treatment of this problem is not always curative. In some cases, it may be a lifelong problem. In many instances, the condition reoccurs when treatment stops.

As you have stated, the ulcers generally respond well to corticosteroids, which is the treatment of choice initially. In many cases, corticosteroids are continued on a lower dosage after the first couple of weeks until a low, every-other-day or every-third-day dosage is found. You should not stop this medication too soon because reoccurence may be very rapid. Antibiotics may be necessary if secondary infections become likely. Many cases respond well to maintenance doses of megestrol acetate (Ovaban), generally on a weekly basis. I would recommend a biopsy of this lesion, especially if it persists, to rule out the possibility of squamous cell carcinoma. Surgical removal may be necessary if the lesion is small. X-ray therapy has been tried in some cases with wide ranges of success. Your vet may want to consult with an oncologist for this kind of treatment. This particular disease can be very frustrating to treat but requires a lot of persistence on your part to help your Kitty. Good luck.

Q: Do you ever recommend a vasectomy instead of castration for male cats? Is there anyone who does these vasectomies routinely? I am considering getting my cat neutered, but I'm not so sure I want him castrated because I don't want to change his personality. What do you suggest?

Karen B.,

Lake Forest

A: I do not recommend vasectomies in cats because it does not eliminate the usually irritating side effects of having an intact male cat around the house. These cats will continue to act like intact toms with the usual fighting, spraying, very strong urine odor and often cranky dispositions. If your cat's personality is still quite pleasant, neutering should keep him that way and make him a better house pet.

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