COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A family pet is dying of cancer, and the owners say their veterinarians told them the tumor was likely caused by a vaccination.
"The bump started growing towards the beginning of the year," said Alyssa Gorden, one of the cat's owners.
Her cat, Hozart, has a large open tumor just above his tail, the same spot where the cat was vaccinated in Montana years ago.
"It was just a routine visit, 'Oh your cat needs a vaccination,'" said Anthony Gorden, Alyssa's dad. "I was never told of any risks or anything like that."
Anthony said the cat was vaccinated for rabies, distemper and feline leukemia. Since Hozart developed the tumor, the family has learned that the leukemia vaccine isn't necessary for in-door cats like Hozart, and that it carries one of the highest risks of any animal vaccine for causing cancerous tumors.
"It seems to be the vaccine most likely to induce sarcomas," said Dr. Deborah Germeroth, from High Country Veterinary Hospital in Colorado Springs.
Germeroth said pet owners should give their animal the least vaccines it needs for its lifestyle. She said she warns owners of the risks involved.
"There's no cookie-cutter recipe for animal vaccines, but you don't need everything under the sun," said Germeroth. "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
Deanna Worley at the Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center said cancer incidents from vaccines aren't well known. She said it could be between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 10,000. Pet owners should talk to their vet and do their own homework to find out what's really necessary for their animal.
"There are a lot of benefits to vaccinations in cats and it's really dependent upon what the cats exposure level is to different infections," said Worley. "Unfortunately, there is a risk of side effects."
She added that vaccines should be injected into an animal's leg, so if a tumor develops it can be amputated to save the pet's life.
Anthony said he has nothing against vaccines, but wishes his vet had given him the information to weigh the risks with the benefits.
"I think everybody needs to be made aware of it," he said. '"I think everybody should have a choice."
The Gorden family has spent thousand of dollars trying to save Hozart, but the future doesn't look good. Alyssa teared up at the thought of losing the cat that's been her best friend for most of her life.
"I'm concerned that I won't have him here to be with me when I need him," said Alyssa.