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What are Bone Tumors?

The most common type of bone tumor is osteosarcoma. This is a serious condition, but it is significantly less aggressive in cats than in dogs. These tumors are often located in the radius, tibia, femur, or humerus, and are more commonly found in the hind legs than the front. The condition can affect cats of any age, but is most common in those ten years of age or older.

If cat is limping without explanation, a trip to the vet is in order. Although there are many possible causes, a bone tumor is a significant enough concern to warrant attention. Finding and treating a tumor as early as possible is a key factor in achieving a positive outcome. 

Bone tumors are growths commonly found on the leg bones of cats. Less often, tumors can develop on the spine, ribs, pelvis, shoulder blades, and skull. Cats are much less likely to be affected by this condition than dogs, and approximately one-third of bone tumors found on cats are benign.

Bone Tumors Average Cost

From 331 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$2,200

Symptoms of Bone Tumors in Cats

Symptoms can vary depending on the area in which the tumor is located. Owners should keep an eye out for one or more of the following:

  • Lameness
  • Swelling of affected area
  • Stiffness
  • Limited joint movement
  • Visible lump or mass
  • Pain in the affected area
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Bone fractures not caused by injury
  • Difficulty eating (jaw tumor)
  • Seizures or wobbling (skull or vertebral tumors)
  • Difficulty breathing (rib tumors)
  • Discharge from nostrils (nasal bone tumors)
  • Difficulty with defecation (pelvic bones tumors)

Bone tumors are classified as either primary or secondary. Primary tumors develop directly on the bone. Osteosarcoma is the most common primary tumor and accounts for 95 percent of bone tumors. Other types include chondrosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma. Secondary tumors, rarely seen in cats, are often spread from a nearby site, as is the case in multiple myeloma of the bone marrow. Secondary tumors may also have metastasized from tumors in another area of the body. 

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Causes of Bone Tumors in Cats

Osteosarcoma and other primary tumors usually happen spontaneously. Studies have been unable to pinpoint a cause, and no genetic link has been found. There is no conclusive evidence of the condition occurring one gender over another. There is some evidence that large and giant-breed cats may be more likely to develop the condition. In rare cases, tumors may arise in areas where the bone was previously damaged by fractures, radiation treatment, or bone diseases.

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Diagnosis of Bone Tumors in Cats

The first step in diagnosing bone tumors in cats is a complete physical exam and x-rays of the affected area. An orthopedic exam will be completed to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms. If a veterinarian suspects a bone tumor, he or she may consult with a veterinary oncologist and/or surgical specialist. 

Additional tests will be needed to determine the type of tumor present, whether it has spread to or from other areas of the body, and the overall physical condition of the cat. It is likely that the veterinarian will recommend a blood analysis to determine blood count and serum biochemistry and a urinalysis to assess kidney function. A full body scan done with a radioactive marker that is injected into the bloodstream can highlight any additional bone tumors that may be present. A chest x-ray is sometimes recommended to check for tumors in the lungs that may have spread to the bone. A biopsy or needle aspiration should also be done in order to determine the specific type of tumor that is present. This is critical to developing an effective treatment plan as different types of tumors react differently to various treatments.

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Treatment of Bone Tumors in Cats

Treatment plans will vary depending on the size, location, and type of tumor. Other considerations include whether it is localized or has spread and the general health of the affected animal.

Curative-Intent Treatment

The purpose of curative-intent treatment is to improve the animal’s quality of life, minimize the risk of metastasis, and ultimately cure the tumor. For cats with any type of primary bone tumor, the only option is surgery. Limb amputation is most commonly recommended for primary bone tumors. A thorough examination of the cat will need to be completed to determine whether it will be able to function on three legs. If the cat is unusually heavy or has arthritis or hip dysplasia, this may not be a viable option. The veterinarian will determine whether post-surgical chemotherapy is needed to reduce the risk of metastasis. Cats with osteosarcoma may be treated with the assumption that there are also tumors located in the lungs.

Limb-sparing surgery occurs when the affected part of the bone is removed and replaced with a tissue graft from one of the other legs. This is not as commonly available and comes with a high risk of complications. Your veterinarian will help to determine whether this is an option for you.

Palliative Treatment

When an animal is not a candidate for curative-intent treatment, the focus turns to controlling pain and helping to keep it as comfortable as possible. Medication is the most common treatment, as it can reduce pain and help to prolong life even when the tumor cannot be removed. Radiation once a week for three to four weeks may be used to treat pain and inflammation. In extreme cases where the tumor is causing a significant amount of pain, limb amputation may also be recommended.

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Recovery of Bone Tumors in Cats

For cats that have been diagnosed with bone tumors, the outlook can be described as “guarded.” If the condition is not treated, cats are likely to live less than a few months. With treatment, cats with bone cancer can live an average of two years or longer. The prognosis is good when the tumor has been completely removed and the cancer hasn’t spread. When osteosarcoma is present, amputation of the affected leg without follow-up chemotherapy results in a mean survival time of 350 days to four years.

Following surgery and chemotherapy, it is likely that cats will experience a loss of appetite. Providing a highly nutritional diet and a comfortable place to eat and sleep will assist in recovery. Animals tend to adapt to limb amputation within three to four weeks. Owners should remain patient and offer assistance when possible. It may be helpful to provide ramps or stairs to minimize the need for jumping. Carefully monitor your cat during recovery time, and don’t hesitate to speak to your veterinarian about additional pain medication if you feel that it may be needed.

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Bone Tumors Average Cost

From 331 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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Bone Tumors Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Tabby

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Sixteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tumor In Back Leg

Our kitty has lost control and movement in her right back leg. She can still get around, barely, but eats, drinks and uses the litter box on her own. She has dropped from 14lbs to 7.8lbs in a month and a half. The vet ruled out kidney disease as her kidneys are operating at 30%, which is good, according to him. He felt her legs and that’s when he found a tumor. He advised that it would be untreatable even if he did a biopsy. He also said that her body wouldn’t be able to handle all the tests. How can I tell if she’s in pain?? Is there anything else I can do for her??

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. She sounds like she is getting older, and there is nothing that you can do to stop that, unfortunately. If he kidneys are functioning at 30%, she probably has kidney disease, and that makes pain medication a little complicated for her. Since I cannot see her, I have a hard time commenting on whether she is in pain, but I think it would be best to have a conversation with your veterinarian about her quality of life, and see if they think that this is fair for her to live like that, or if there are other therapies that might make her comfortable. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 4, 2020

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Ragdoll

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hiding, Lethargic

Some arthritis in hips..steroid shot 2 weeks ago..little help. Last visit yesterday and Dr said she still has pain in pelvic area..so gave her a pain shot. She’s still hiding under coffee table. Eating well and bowel movements are normal. Said I could take her to specialist for MRI. But costly.

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question,and I'm sorry your cat is having problems. I'm not sure what pain medication your veterinarian is using, but there are some very effective pain medications that you may be able to give orally to help her, at least for a little while. Buprenorphine is one that can be given at home, and you can discuss that with your veterinarian to see if there is more that can be done. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 1, 2020

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Rainie

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domestic short hair

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Grade 1 Lame On Left Front Leg
Mild Swelling-Dorsal Aspect-Humerus

I have a 5 year old cat who may have osteoblastoma in her leg. If it hasn't spread and I opt to remove her leg - what would be the life expectancy and does this type of tumor come back in other parts of her body even after amputation? Radiographs on 7.5.18 were taken due to a 2-3 days history of limping. Radiographs noted moth eaten lysis of the left humerus. Blood work at that time was unremarkable. Cytology- fine needle aspiration of the left proximal humerus was performed.The left humerus is noted to be soft and abnormal on aspiration. Diagnosis:Suspect bone cancer osteosarcoma vs. atypical multiple myeloma

July 19, 2018

Rainie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Osteosarcoma is a malignant bone tumour (the most common bone tumour in cats) and has a high degree of metastasis; normally treatment involves surgical removal or amputation along with chemotherapy started immediately. Prognosis is still not favourable but varies case to case. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 20, 2018

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Tessie

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Cat

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18 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loose Bowel Movements

My old moggy has just been diagnosed with tumour o. Hind leg. She lost the use of it about 7 days ago and has progressively gotten worse. I've been given pain relief for her. She is eating and drinking ok, how ever her stools are extremely loose. She used to sleep on the back of our couch but is now hiding behind in the dark. My vet has given me two options sedate her and do lots of different tests or put her to sleep. I don't want her to suffer longer than needed. I am spoiling her with what ever she wants to eat drink or do. My question is do i put her through the tests or let her go peacefully 😢

June 26, 2018

Tessie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Whether you decide to have the testing done for Tessie or not is quite a personal decision for you, and she has lived a very long and happy life. If the outcome of the testing is the same, where you have to decide on amputation or other surgery, I would ask myself if that was something that I would put my 18 year old cat through before deciding on the testing. Until you decide, if she is generally comfortable, eating and drinking and not in pain, you may be able to continue to medicate her for a while longer. Your veterinarian can help you decide if she is suffering, as I am not able to examine her.

June 26, 2018

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Nemo

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Cat

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My cat is 16 years old just been diagnosed with bone tumor on his upper front leg. Should I put my baby through it or keep him as comfortable as possible until the time comes? 😞

May 11, 2018

Nemo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without knowing anything about Nemo, his comfort level, the type or severity of the cancer, or his lifestyle, that is not a question that I can possibly comment on. Since your veterinarian has seen him, knows more about his situation and his comfort level, that would be a great question to ask them. If Nemo is comfortable and doing well, he may be okay for a while.

May 11, 2018

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Millie

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hard Limb
Mild Limping
Lamenes

My 2y old DSH kitty is having xrays tomorrow for a hard swollen limb, Dr. said it felt like soft tissue was damaged, described to feel like a 2x4 piece of wood. We tried treating for a bite wound but nothing helped over the course of 1 week. I’m hoping the xrays will rule it out and she won’t need to have her bone removed or be put down.

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Solomon

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Mixed breed

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

My thirteen baby Solomon has bone cancer in his right back leg. It's a white leg with a beautiful black heart on it. He started to limp back in Jan 2019. I took him to the vet and was told it was cancer and it will spread to his lungs and he will die in weeks. He was nine pounds then and that was six months ago. He now weighs six pounds and the tumors in his leg are very. I didn't have his leg cut off or do chemo because I felt it would be curl. Now the vet says sometimes cancer doesn't spread and stay localized. He's been on pain medication for months. He hates it. Because he can no longer bend his leg he stands to use the kitty litter box and drags that leg. The vet is saying because of the size of the tumors it's time to put him down. I don't want my love to suffer. I'd rather my baby have a natural death. How much longer do you think this will go on? If his cancer doesn't spread will the leg burst from cancer getting bigger and bigger? I don't want him to suffer. Will cancer stop growing and just stay in his leg? Should I put him down and why? I have never taken a life.

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lucky

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short hair

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Slight Limping

My 5 years old rescue cat has been diagnose with bone cancer. The vet notice an enlarge heart too. He is eating OK and sleeps a lot. I am seeing an oncologist in a few days. I am not sure what to do. I hate to put him through amputation. I am in sad state.

Bone Tumors Average Cost

From 331 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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