What are Brain Tumors?
Tumors are a collection of cells that grow in an abnormal way. Veterinarians place brain tumors into two different categories. If a tumor originates in the cat’s brain and its membranes, it is known as a primary tumor. Tumors that begin elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain are known as secondary tumors.
Cats can develop medical conditions similar to humans. While most cats are generally healthy, there are some conditions that can pose a threat to their health. Brain tumors are such a condition. While this type of cancer is more common in dogs than cats, cats can still develop tumors that can be cancerous.
Symptoms of Brain Tumors in Cats
Cats that develop brain tumors can exhibit a variety of symptoms. Below are some of the most common symptoms seen in domestic cats:
- Sudden onset of seizures
- Head tilt
- Circling or chasing the tail
- Increased or diminished hunger
- Increased or diminished thirst
- Pressing the head into the floor or furniture
- Decreased sensation on one side of the body
- Diminished vision
- Drunk appearance
- Problems swallowing
- Swaying of the body
- Inability to move the eyes
- Increased vocal sounds
Causes of Brain Tumors in Cats
While some brain tumors occur with no known cause, veterinarians believe there are certain factors that place cats at an increased risk of developing them. Some conditions that are believed to contribute to brain tumors include:
- Environmental factors
- Chemical exposure
- Taking certain medications
Diagnosis of Brain Tumors in Cats
In order to diagnose brain tumors in cats, doctors take a detailed history from the cat’s owner. This questionnaire includes information such as unusual birth history, pre-existing conditions and when symptoms first appeared. After taking a medical history, the doctor will examine the cat thoroughly. He will observe the cat’s gait, demeanor and motor skills. Most veterinarians suspect brain tumors in cats over five years of age if they exhibit neurological symptoms.
A sample of blood will be taken from the cat and examined for any abnormalities. Routine tests such as a biochemical profile and a CBC, or complete blood count, are performed. A urinalysis will also be performed and examined. Doctors typically take an X-ray of the head to see if a tumor is visible. However, many tumors are difficult to see on routine X-ray films. Additional images may be taken of the chest and abdomen to see if cancer has spread to any vital organs. If additional images of the brain are necessary, doctors may order an MRI or CT scan to help confirm the diagnosis. Doctors often perform a biopsy of the tumor if possible to determine if it is malignant.
Treatment of Brain Tumors in Cats
The treatment recommended for brain tumors in cats depends on several factors, such as the location and type of the tumor. If the veterinarian feels the tumor can be successfully removed, he may perform surgery. Meningiomas are the easiest type of tumor to remove and typically offer the best outcome for the pet. Gliomas are the most problematic, because they often lie deep within the tissues of the brain.
Radiation and chemotherapy can also be performed in an attempt to treat brain tumors in pets. Again, the type of tumor dictates the outcome of the treatment. Typically, cats that have advanced symptoms will not have as favorable an outcome as those who just began exhibiting symptoms. Larger tumors also have a reduced success rate. In cats that are very ill, doctors may opt to use palliative care to keep the symptoms under control. This may include medications to control seizures or administering steroids. Palliative care does not provide a cure, it merely keeps the cat comfortable and gives him time with his owners.
Recovery of Brain Tumors in Cats
The recovery of this condition depends on the placement of the tumor, the health of the cat and whether it is benign or malignant. If caught early and the cat is young, treatment may have a favorable outcome. Cats that are older or in poor health, often do not recover as well from this type of condition. In some cases, veterinarians may recommend euthanasia as the most humane way to treat very sick animals. While this is not the desired outcome, it keeps owners from watching their beloved pet suffer from an incurable condition.
Brain Tumors Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I believe my 18 year old short haired male cat might have a brain tumor. A while back he had what seemed to be a seizure, lasted about a minute and a half long, uncontrollable shaking. Afterward he ate a large amount of food, contrary to how he wasn't eating very well. He has lost a lot of weight, and I believe he is blind in one eye or partially blind in both. He stumbles, scared to go outside even though he used to love it, he meows extremely loud a few times a day. He also started sneezing very green boogers that are long and his nose is also runny. Sometimes there is a tiny amount of blood in the boogers coming out of his nose. I cannot afford to take him in to get checked. What can I do to help him? Is there anywere I can bring him where they will verify that he has a brain tumor for less than $30? Can the humane society check him for free?
Unfortunately I cannot think of anywhere that would be able to confirm a brain tumour diagnosis for less than $30; a standard consultation with no tests is $50 or more. The symptoms you are describing may be caused by a brain tumour, poisoning, head trauma, liver or kidney disease. Blood tests would be recommended in a cat Tigger’s age as well; call the Humane Society and Charity Clinics in your area to see if they are able to help you. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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