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Everything you need to know about lung cancer in cats

Grey cat sleeping advice © Pixabay

Although lung cancer in cats isn’t as commonplace as with dogs, it certainly affects many of our feline friends. It’s more difficult to detect in cats as they tend to mask any health issues.

By Dawn Parrish

Lung cancer in cats is a very serious illness and in some cases is life-threatening. However, if the disease is detected in its initial stages, the chances of survival are increased.

What exactly is feline lung cancer

First of all, there are two categories of lung cancer that affect felines. Both tend to appear more frequently in cats older than 10 years.

1. Primary Lung Cancer

These tumours commence in the lung, however, they are extremely rare in cats. In recent years cases have increased for unknown reasons.

2. Metastatic Lung Cancer

Secondary cancer that begins in a different area of the body, then consequently spread to the lungs.

Symptoms of lung cancer in Cats

Symptoms of this disease vary subject to where cancer first initiates in the cat’s body. In some cats, symptoms might not make an appearance at all. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms that aren’t normal for your cat’s usual health, it’s time to get her checked out. # Loss of appetite or anorexia # Weakness and lethargy # Rapid or laboured breathing # Extreme coughing; coughing up blood # Fever, vomiting, lameness # Excessive crying and hiding away

Hiding Cat
One of the symptoms of cat lung cancer is hiding away from everything ©Pixabay

Likewise, if secondary cancer, a Metastatic type has spread to the cat’s lungs, further symptoms may be noticed: Unexplained bleeding; sores on the skin; wounds that are very slow to heal; changes in toilet habits.

Causes of feline lung cancer

Exposure to carcinogenic environs in the cat’s household can have some bearing on them developing lung cancer. If an active smoker lives in the same household as the cat, the risk of developing the disease is doubled.

cigarette smoke
Secondary smoke causes lung cancer in cats ©Pixabay

Diagnosing lung cancer in cats

A professional, medical examination and diagnosis is necessary for this disease. A chest X-ray is almost certain with the added probability of a biopsy. CT scans and Ultrasounds are also used to diagnose lung cancer. Likewise, blood samples and urine tests will be required.

Treatment options

Once the stage of cancer has been diagnosed, treatment will be advised as required. In the majority of cases of feline lung cancer, it is necessary to remove the tumour from the lung. If the disease only affects one of the lungs, the decision may be made to remove the lobe in its entirety. During this surgery process, an epidural anaesthetic and medications to prevent pain will be administered. A chest drain will also be needed to remove any fluid or air present in the lung capacity. While anaesthesia is sometimes quite dangerous when given to older cats, especially those suffering from lung diseases, a ventilator may be needed during surgery. Chemotherapy will be offered to stop further development of any cancerous cells.

Chemotherapy treatment, mainly given after surgery, can be quite effective. Because cats tend to cope with chemotherapy treatment quite well, possible side effects such as nausea and pain are also treated proactively. As cats are quite adept at hiding their illness symptoms, this is extremely important.  If the cat is suffering from a lot of pain, radiation therapy is a possibility. Likewise, if there is a build-up of liquid on the lungs, this will be removed.

vet doing surgery
Surgery may be needed to cure lung cancer in cats ©Pixabay

Palliative care

In some cases of feline lung cancer, owners sometimes prefer to take the palliative approach, rather than follow the aggressive treatment route. This is even more important when the cat’s age, general health and prognosis is taken into consideration. Certainly, being able to keep the cat in a comfortable state for as long as possible, will have to be contemplated. Likewise, consider the cost of treatment, which in some cases, can be quite expensive.

Whichever form of treatment you choose for your cat with lung cancer or even if you prefer to opt for palliative care, all options are sure to help your pet. It requires a team effort to provide care and to ensure that the cat doesn’t suffer too much. As a result of recent developments in the animal oncology field, many cancers that were inoperable and un-treatable, now have better treatment options. Treatment procedures offered for lung cancer in cats are certainly less aggressive than in human forms of the disease. Similarly, it is uncommon for many unpleasant side effects.