Stomach cancer in cats can take different forms and have very general symptoms. Our board-certified veterinarians in Lexington explain types of stomach cancer found in felines, symptoms, treatment and more.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer in Cats
Often referred to as a 'silent killer', stomach cancer in cats can cause very general symptoms that can make it difficult to diagnose. Understanding which signs to watch for may one day save or prolong your cat's life.
Here are the most frequent signs of stomach cancer in cats:
- Weight loss
- Vomiting, often mixed with blood
Additional symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in the abdominal area
- Anemia (caused by blood loss)
- Hiding for prolonged periods to mask symptoms or avoid contact
- Tarry, black stools (Caused by digested blood)
- Loss of interest in food
- Masses that are easily felt
Is stomach cancer in cats painful?
As noted above, cats may experience pain if they are suffering from cancer. If this is true, they may also act withdrawn or tense, or have difficulty getting comfortable and be less eager to move around or go for walks.
With many forms of cancer (and some cancer treatments), your pet may, unfortunately, experience pain. Pain caused by cancer may significantly reduce your cat’s quality of life, which is why your vet may take a proactive approach to managing pain if your cat is diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Rather than wait for signs of pain to appear, your vet may be able to prescribe medications to help prevent it before it starts, helping your cat to live a more comfortable life.
Types of Stomach Cancer in Cats
While early symptoms of cancer in cats may not be very apparent, they will gradually increase (over weeks or months) until your kitty is experiencing enough discomfort to stop hiding how she feels. Fortunately, the rate of stomach cancers are relatively low compared to other types of cancer cats are typically diagnosed with.
Here are three common types of stomach cancer found in felines:
This type of cancer develops in glandular tissues and reaches organs such as the small intestines, stomach and large colon. Once there, the cells multiply into gastric tumors.
Mast Cell Tumors
Naturaly found in the linings of the digestive tract, mast cells are important to the functioning of your cat's immune system. However, these cells can sometimes form tumors or clusters and start to behave abnormally. Large amounts of chemicals are released into a cat's body and do widespread damage such as causing intestinal ulcers and stomach cancers.
This type of cancer is usually caused when adenocarcinoma metastasized to the lymph nodes.
Getting a Diagnosis
Your vet may use several diagnostic methods to determine whether your cat's symptoms are caused by stomach cancer. They'll first ask you about the symptoms you've been noticing in your feline friend, then perform one or more of the following procedures based on the information you provide.
Abdominal Ultrasound or Radiograph
These may reveal abnormalities in the organ. That said, a closer examination is usually required to confirm a case of cancer.
The veterinarian will usually want to run a blood panel to look for elevated white blood count levels and other abnormalities.
This procedure involves putting your cat under anesthesia so an endoscope can be passed down into the stomach to see its interior and collect a sample of suspicious cells for biopsy.
This is generally the most effective way to see and if possible remove malignant masses and cells.
Treatment for Stomach Cancer in Cats
After your cat is initially diagnosed with stomach cancer, further diagnostic testing may be needed to help your veterinarian establish the extent of your cat's condition, in addition to which treatment options will be best.
Surgery is often recommended to treat cancer and remove some of the surrounding tissue in cats diagnosed with cancer. However, note that the effectiveness of surgical treatment will depend on whether the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. Cancer often spreads to nearby lymph nodes and cancerous cells then circulate throughout the body, settling in other places. Some cancers are very difficult to treat in cats successfully.
We work with your primary care veterinarian to provide the best care possible and optimal treatment outcomes for your cat’s specific circumstances.
We are also experienced in offering support for pet parents and families. We thoroughly review your pet’s medical history and diagnosis, then sit with you to explain the disease, staging and any additional diagnostics required, treatment options, side effects and prognosis.
Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapies, chemotherapy or other targeted therapies or palliative care where appropriate.
When it comes to stomach cancer in cats, it's often challenging to pinpoint a survival rate since there are so many unique factors and circumstances in each case. The disease often reappears months or years after successful treatment. This is why most cats that have had cancer surgery are given a guarded prognosis. In many cases, surgical treatment adds 12-14 months of life for an affected kitty.Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.