Feline Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is rare in cats, but usually occurs as transitional cell carcinoma. Vets believe that certain carcinogens are excreted in the urine, and can cause cancer in the lining of the bladder and urethra.

Cat Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

One of the primary risk factors for the development of feline bladder cancer is exposure to carcinogens. Cyclophosphamide, a drug used to treat immune system disorders and some types of cancer, can have a carcinogenic effect once it is metabolized. Cats who have taken this drug are at increased risk for bladder cancer. Flea and tick dips may also increase the chances of bladder cancer.

Female cats are more prone than males to developing bladder cancer, and obese cats are also at increased risk.

Untreated bladder cancer can block the urinary tract; inability to urinate can rapidly cause death. Bladder cancer also spreads easily to other organs. In most cases, the cancer has already spread before a diagnosis has been made. Cats may survive any length of time, from a few weeks to longer than a year, after diagnosis. Prognosis depends on the location and size of the tumor, as well as whether the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Cats

Symptoms of feline bladder cancer include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Coughing
  • Lowered activity levels
  • Straining to defecate or urinate
  • Frequent urination accompanied by the excretion of very small amounts of urine
  • Bloody urine

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer in Cats

Your vet will need to perform a number of tests to confirm bladder cancer and rule out the possibility of other conditions that show the same symptoms. He'll need your cat's complete medical history, if available, and he'll perform a physical exam during which he'll palpitate your cat's abdomen, bladder and urethra to check for growths there. X-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests can confirm the presence of tumors and other indicators of cancer, such as elevated white blood cell counts.

Treating Feline Bladder Cancer

If the tumors in your cat's bladder are accessible and small, your vet may be able to remove them surgically. If the cancer hasn't yet spread to other organs, then surgical removal of tumors may be an effective treatment for the cancer.

Chemotherapy may be effective for some cats. Treatment with the drug piroxicam may help stop tumor growth or even reduce the size of your cat's bladder tumors.

If your cat has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, observe his bathroom habits carefully. Changes in urinary habits and frequency could indicate further tumor growth.

Even if your cat hasn't been diagnosed with bladder cancer, consult your vet or emergency veterinary clinic right away if you notice signs of difficult urination. Difficulty urinating isn't always a symptom of bladder cancer, but it could be a symptom of infection, or of a developing urinary blockage. Older male cats are particularly susceptible to such blockage. If your cat's uretha becomes blocked and he can't urinate, he could die from a condition called uremia, in fewer than three days.