Feline Bladder Cancer


Just like people, cats can develop a number of cancers. One of them is bladder cancer.  While it’s not one of the more common cancers in cats, it does occur, usually in older cats and those whose immune systems are less than 100% because they are FIV- or leukemia-positive.  Like most cancers, the exact cause of bladder cancer isn’t clear but some research shows that a cat’s environment may play a role.  Some ingredients in certain flea dips, pesticides and insecticides may also increase the risk.
Bladder cancer grows quickly can cause tumors in the urinary tract.  There are several kinds of tumors like transitional cell carcinoma, the most common, and adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and fibromas.  Tumors grow as the disease progresses causing urinary obstruction and can also spread to other parts of the body.  Bladder cancer can be malignant and is life threatening for cats.
What signs of bladder cancer should you be on the lookout for in your cat?  Among the most common things to look for are blood in the urine, if a cat strains to urinate or defecate, more frequency in urinating but less output each time, not wanting to exercise and difficulty in breathing or coughing.  Many times, bladder cancer is diagnosed when it’s progressed pretty far because these symptoms can be missed.
If you’re worried about any of the above in your cat, go to your veterinarian immediately. Because there are other conditions the mimic the symptoms of bladder cancer, the vet will want to determine if your cat actually has cancer or not.  To do that, the vet will review your pet’s history, do a thorough exam and a comprehensive blood and urine analysis, take X-rays, and maybe do an abdominal ultrasound.  Depending on what those tests reveal, the vet may do biopsies and additional tests that focus on the area of the bladder.  Your cat may also be referred to a veterinary oncologist for treatment.
If the diagnosis is bladder cancer, there are some treatments vets use.  Small tumors in some locations can be removed surgically.  If the tumors are transitional cell carcinomas, they will likely have already spread to other parts of the body that can’t be removed.  Chemotherapy or radiation treatments may also be prescribed.  Some drugs, like Feldene, which is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory piroxicam, have also shown some success.  Bladder cancer is rarely cured, though, so other recommended treatments will be used to control symptoms and to offer your cat quality of life.
BCR’s Thurston has recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer and has developed tumors on his spleen and kidneys. While he can’t be cured, he will get treated with chemotherapy and he seems to be doing fine right now.  Whatever time Thurston has, we will take good care of him, show him love and make sure he’s as comfortable as possible.
As with all things related to your cat’s health, being vigilant is very important and knowing what your cat’s “normal” is.

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