Feline Lung Cancer

Cat lung cancer can be one of two types, either primary or secondary. Primary lung cancer originates in the lungs, while secondary lung cancer spreads to the lungs from some other part of the body. Vets don't know what causes cat lung cancer, but they think pollution might be a causal factor.

Feline Lung Cancer Causes and Symptoms

Vets don't yet know what causes feline lung cancer, though they believe air pollution might be a causal factor, especially for cases of primary lung cancer, in which the tumors originate in the lungs themselves. Symptoms may not become obvious until your cat's lung cancer is quite progressed; since cat lung cancer is often diagnosed late, it's also often difficult to treat.

Symptoms of cat lung cancer include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Labored breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Most cases of lung cancer in cats occur in geriatric animals older than ten years of age.

Diagnosing Cat Lung Cancer

Your vet will need to perform chest X-rays in order to diagnose feline lung cancer. If your vet detects a tumor on the X-rays, he'll perform a range of diagnostic tests to rule out other respiratory diseases that display similar symptoms. He'll perform blood tests and a urinalysis; he'll check your cat's liver, kidneys, blood sugar levels and immune function.

Your vet may need to perform a biopsy to determine if the tumor in your cat's lungs is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). A biopsy is a simple procedure in which your vet removes a small amount of tissue from the tumor, using an aspirate needle. If your cat's lungs, chest cavity or abdomen have begun to fill with fluid as a result of the tumor's presence, your vet can diagnose cancer by examining a sample of this fluid, which he'll draw out with an aspirate needle in order to help your cat breathe easier.

Treating Cat Lung Cancer

Feline lung cancer can be difficult to treat, especially if the cancer has already spread. If the tumor is primary and is located in only one lobe of one lung, then your vet may be able to successfully treat the cancer with surgery. If the cancer has spread through the whole lung, into both lungs or into other parts of the body, then treatment will be difficult and your cat's prognosis poor. While surgery in the early stage of feline lung cancer carries a high survival rate, giving your cat a chance of living for several more years, surgery in the later stages of the disease carries a death rate higher than 80%.

If your cat receives surgery for the treatment of feline lung cancer, then your vet may recommend post surgical chemotherapy to help keep the cancer from coming back. In general, however, chemotherapy is not an effective treatment for cat lung cancer and won't be used if your cat doesn't have surgery.

Cats who are in the early stages of feline lung cancer, who have not yet begun to lose weight, continue to enjoy a healthy appetite and remain active and alert, are the best candidates for feline lung cancer surgery. If your cat isn't a candidate for surgery, treatment should focus on relieving his symptoms as long as possible.