Researchers find that tail injections might lessen toll of injection-site sarcomas

University of Florida researchers are suggesting that cats may benefit from receiving vaccine injections in their tails after their study revealed that the practice can help veterinarians more easily deal with injection-site sarcomas.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, thousands of cats each year develop cancer near more commonly used injection sites such as the knee joint in the leg, which is a recommended protocol from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.  

If cancer develops in that area, it can force owners into making tough decisions involving whether to subject their pet to radical surgery or amputation of a limb, said Julie Levy, DVM, Ph.D., the Maddie's Professor of Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Many cat owners elect not to pursue the most effective treatment - radical surgery of the tumor - because excision of tumors in the limbs and torso is often disfiguring, painful, and expensive," Levy said in a University of Florida news release.

Because amputation of a tail in the event of an injection-site sarcoma is less disfiguring and life-altering to cats, the University of Florida researchers decided to explore vaccine injections in the tail as an alternative.

Comparing tail injections to more common alternatives

The researchers surveyed veterinary oncologists worldwide, asking them to rank 11 commonly used injection sites. The respondents also chose their three favorite sites based solely on the relative ease of treating injection-site sarcomas should they develop in those areas.

According to the University of Florida, the tail was one of oncologists' favorite places to inject.

Researchers followed up on their findings from the survey by enrolling 60 cats that eventually received vaccine injections in their tails. Cats tolerated the tail injections as well or better than injections in their hind legs, leading Julius Liptak, B.V.Sc., surgery specialist and a founding fellow in surgical oncology with the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, to conclude that tail injections effectively provide immunity against diseases, are easy to perform, and are well-tolerated by cats.  

And in the long run, Liptak said he thought tail injections are a potentially better way to reduce deaths and disfigurements due to injection-site sarcomas.

"If vaccinations on the end of the tail become a widely adopted practice, then amputating the tail is a much easier and less traumatic procedure, which will hopefully result in a much greater potential to cure this disease," Liptak said. 

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