Symptoms of Stomach Cancer in Cats

Knowing the symptoms of stomach cancer helps prolong your cat's life. Stomach cancer usually goes unnoticed until it has advanced. While the life expectancy for a cat with stomach cancer is low, early detection goes a long way. Pay close attention to your cat's behavior and eating habits to make it easier to recognize when something is wrong.

Types of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is one of the less common feline cancers. Still, it's important to understand the types of cancer affecting the stomach. They include:

  • Adenocarcinoma: Starts in the glands and spreads to stomach and intestine tissue.

  • Lymphoma: Form of adenocarcinoma that spreads to the lymph nodes.

  • Mast Cell Tumors: Commonly found in the digestive tract where they form clusters and release chemicals that attack areas of the body, such as the stomach or intestines. One of the more common result of a mast cell tumor invasion are bleeding ulcers.

With these cancers, you may be able to feel a mass in the area of the stomach, one of the most common symptoms of stomach cancer. Make it a routine to scratch or rub your cat's belly regularly to check for masses. If you feel any hard lumps, contact your veterinarian.

Symptoms of Stomach Cancer in Cats

Cats tend to be good at hiding the fact they are in discomfort. Until the pain becomes severe, you may not notice anything is wrong with your cat. Watch for these common symptoms of stomach cancer.

  • Abdominal pain

  • Anemia (often caused by bleeding ulcers)

  • Bloody feces (stools often appear very black, like tar)

  • Dehydration

  • Lack of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Lumps or masses in the area of the stomach

  • Nausea

  • Tendency to hide or avoid owners

  • Vomiting (watch for blood in the vomit)

  • Weight loss

Pay close attention to appetite changes in your cat. Your cat may refuse to eat or become finicky about what she eats. Some cats will only eat their favorite foods. Others may completely stop eating. These common symptoms of stomach cancer are also present in other diseases, so seek an expert opinion. It's important to contact your vet as soon as possible. If it is cancer, the sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of extending your cat's life.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Stomach Cancer

If stomach cancer is suspected, your veterinarian will perform an ultrasound or x-ray to look for masses in the stomach. If there are visible tumors, a biopsy will be performed. A camera is inserted through the esophagus into the stomach where the doctor views the interior of the stomach. A gastroscopy is more effective, but it does require anesthetizing your cat while the scope is used to view the stomach and collect skin cells for a biopsy.

If the biopsy is positive, surgical removal of the tumor is required. Some veterinarians will recommend chemotherapy, but the majority don't because of the risk to other organs. Radiation is not used in stomach cancer because of the risk of damaging nearby organs. Even with surgical removal, most cases of cancer return. The life expectancy for a cat with stomach cancer is another year or two.