Feline Kidney Cancer

Feline kidney cancer is rare. This form of cancer, which is seen most often in middle-aged and older cats, often spreads to other organs in the feline body.

Feline Kidney Cancer Explained

­­­­Feline kidney cancer (renal neoplasia) can begin in a cat’s renal system or spread to that area from a malignancy that metastasized to the kidneys. Kidney cancer has five different stages, the fifth stage being the worst.

About 50% of kidney cancer occurrences in cats are seen in those that test positive for the feline leukemia virus.

Symptoms of Feline Kidney Cancer

Feline kidney cancer is hard to spot in its early stages, as cats will not be symptomatic until the cancer has advanced significantly or until one of the kidneys has completely failed and the other is working at two-thirds capacity.   

A cat with kidney cancer will lose his appetite, lose weight, and have bad breath or dental problems. Kidney cancer will also cause a cat to become more thirsty than usual, and he’ll drink more water. This increase in thirst has also caused cats to drink from unusual places, like the toilet or puddles of water he finds, and to urinate more often.

Other symptoms of feline kidney cancer include:

  • Vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Blood in the urine
  • An enlarged belly
  • Pain in the cat’s back
  • Kidney failure
  • Lack of energy

Diagnosing Feline Kidney Cancer

A thorough battery of tests will have to be done on a cat suspected of having kidney cancer, since his symptoms may resemble other medical conditions. After a complete physical examination and history of the cat, blood tests will be ordered, which include a complete blood count and a biochemical profile. A complete blood count (CBC) can indicate an elevated level of red or white blood cells or anemia (a low red blood cell count). The biochemistry profile will reveal enzymes in the kidneys that are at elevated levels and abnormalities in the electrolyte levels. A urinalysis will show if a cat has blood in his urine, an elevated number of white blood cells, protein or bacteria. There are times when neoplastic cells are seen in the urine test as well. A culture on a cat’s urine may be done to see if he has a urinary tract infection.

X-rays of the abdomen and chest will reveal the presence of tumors, their size and if they have spread to other parts of the body. An ultrasound will confirm the presence of tumors in a cat’s body, help get a good look at the lymph nodes and check other organs for the spread of cancer. Ultrasound imaging will also guide a technician in obtaining a sample of tissue to biopsy.

Treatment of Feline Kidney Cancer

Once diagnosed, treatment of feline kidney cancer is dependent upon the stage of the disease and if it has spread. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and antibiotics.

The prognosis for cats with kidney cancer is poor. Successful treatment of kidney cancer in cats requires a combination of early detection, aggressive treatment and a strict aftercare plan.