What is Kidney Cancer?
Older cats are more susceptible to developing cancers of the kidney. The older the cat, the harder it is to recover from treatment. Most tumors that grow in or on the kidneys are malignant (cancerous). All renal cancers are highly invasive to the body, and over 50% of cases spread quickly. The list of organs and body parts that cancer of the kidneys can spread to is long, including blood, lymph nodes, lungs, brain and spinal cord. Because renal cancer is so aggressive, by the time symptoms have manifested the cancer has already taken hold of the patient. This is a good reason to have routine or annual blood work performed on your cat.
Renal (kidney) cancer is generally rare in cats. Of the cancers that do develop in the kidneys, lymphoma is the most common type to appear, followed by renal cell carcinoma. All renal cancer is very dangerous, requiring immediate treatment. Often, cancer found in the kidneys has metastasized (spread) from elsewhere in the body, making the condition even more serious.
Symptoms of Kidney Cancer in Cats
The symptoms of renal cancer often are shared with other urinary tract problems. If your cat is showing any of these symptoms, it is best to have a vet examine them immediately. Symptoms are as follows:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Polyuria (frequent urination)
- Blood in urine
- Polydipsia (increased thirst)
- Weight loss
- Behavioral changes
- Pale gums
- Dull coat
- Poor skin condition
- Bad breath
Causes of Kidney Cancer in Cats
Not all renal cancers have an understood cause. It seems that many senior cats eventually develop severe kidney problems. Possible causes include:
- Severe UTI (urinary tract infection) left untreated
- Ingestion of toxins
- Environmental exposure to toxins
- Interaction with a cat who has Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV is present in almost 50% of renal cancer cases)
A cat's kidneys do not have the tendency to repair well, leading to potential allowances of cancerous irregularities to flourish.
Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer in Cats
Upon arrival at a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, the veterinarian will request your cat's complete medical history to look for any relative problems. Then, a physical examination and evaluation will take place. All other kidney and liver problems have to be ruled, out as many express the same symptoms. An X-ray or abdominal ultrasound is generally the first thing required to confirm the presence of tumors or irregularities in the kidneys.
If tumors or growths are found, a needle aspiration or biopsy will be needed to examine the properties of said tumors and determine if cancer is present. Extensive blood work will be needed, including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile looking for enzymes with elevated levels. Blood work will also show if the cat is a good surgical candidate or not. Urinalysis will be performed to look for blood traces, high white blood cell numbers, proteins, and even bacteria that could be exacerbating the renal situation. A kidney function test may also be suggested. After all of these tests, an MRI or CT scan will be requested to see if surgery is viable, and if so what the best course of action will be.
Treatment of Kidney Cancer in Cats
Many treatment options are available to cats facing renal cancer. Determining the right treatment will be based on the cancer's progression, the strength of the cat and the type of cancer that is present.
If only one kidney is affected by the cancer, often removal of the entire kidney is advised. This is a high-risk surgery, but offers the best chance of survival if the cancer has not yet metastasized to other parts of the body. The cat will be put under general anesthetic to undergo the surgery. A strict, at-home care regime will need to be administered if the surgery is successful.
This treatment can be lengthy and expensive. Medications that combat cancerous cells will be given to the cat on a regular basis. If the renal cancer present is not lymphoma, chemotherapy may have no significant effect as a treatment.
This often includes a vigorous schedule of vet administered treatments that can last for weeks on end. It may be used in addition to surgery.
After surgery is complete, and if an infection was present at the time of blood work, antibiotics will be prescribed to remove bacteria.
In patients that do not qualify for surgery, often general, life assisting care is recommended. This, in turn, becomes palliative treatment to keep the cat comfortable in its last days.
Recovery of Kidney Cancer in Cats
Kidney cancer usually carries an overall poor prognosis in cats. Survival may only be increased by months even after vigorous treatments have been applied. The earlier the cancer is discovered, the better, as this increases the chance of removal before spreading has occurred. There is a very high rate of relapse in renal cancer.
If the cancer is only present in one kidney and has not developed in any other area of the body, and surgical removal of that kidney has taken place successfully, a full recovery is sometimes possible. Extensive at-home care will be required, including a close monitoring of the incision site for possible infection. Later X-rays will be needed to ensure no other cancer is growing, and that the remaining kidney is functioning at an optimum level.
Kidney Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Surgery or not, is the decision we have to make soon. My cat is 13.5 yrs old .she has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus about 4 months ago. Since then she has been on insulin shots twice a day. We went back for a follow up check last week. The doctor found a mass in her abdomen that she said was not there 4 months ago. She thought it is cancer , most probably lymphoma and that we need to see oncologist. yesterday we took her to the oncologist, she had a ultrasound and he said it looks more likely to be kidney cancer, but could be lymphoma.either way he said if we decide to treat her it has to be surgically removed as it is very large. After that we still may need chemotherapy, and it can come back in other organs.Also she has diabetes to deal with.
Add a comment to Minnu's experience
Was this experience helpful?
Hello! My cat is 11 and a half, has been diagnosed with kidney cancer, BUN 124, creatinine 5.5. She eats and drinks, moves around the house, yet having urinary incontinence. The vet gave her one month. My question: what should I expect in the next days and how would I know her final hours? Thank you.
Having an estimated time for your loved ones death can be an upsetting experience and may lead you to try to spend as much more time as possible before the inevitable occurs. I would highly recommend not waiting until the end as cats dying of kidney failure may start to have seizures (although some do pass away peacefully) as the accumulated toxins in the body start to affect the nervous system. Her final hours would probably result in disorientation and as I mentioned possibly seizures; we cannot know for sure if Sasha is in pain, but we can assume that discomfort and nausea (due to toxin build up) will present. Euthanasia would ultimately be in Sasha’s and your best interest, as natural passing may not be pleasant for either of you. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Sasha's experience
Was this experience helpful?
Hello, my 13yr old cat, Misha has not had any health issues until a month ago. She was sensitive to the touch on her right flank. Vet gave her metacam for pain and sent us home. Yesterday I brought her in with: large area swelling RF, pain to touch, bad breath, thirst, frequent urination. Basic blood test BUN 146, the other 36. Films show the entire intestinals are pushed to the right obstructing the right kidney. Ultrasound recommended. Sent home w/tramadol, Prilosec, antibiotic, (by syringe)and pedialyte for hydration in water dish. What can this be? Why are her intestines pushed completely over to the right? Should I euthanize and spare trauma? Pls advise. Thank you.🐾🐾
Was an ultrasound performed? If the x-ray didn’t give any clarity to the underlying condition, ultrasound would be the next step and it would also allow your Veterinarian to see the internal structure of the kidney. Usually when abdominal contents are displaced, it is caused by a tumour or severe peritonitis; more investigation is required, I cannot recommend euthanasia without examining Misha but if there is pain and it cannot be treated, it would need to be considered. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Sorry Leslie to hear that! My 14 year old cat Pashis has developed a tumour on his kidney. He was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. He has been on drip for 3 days and his urea and creatinine has dropped significantly. It seems that both kidneys are damaged but the vet told us the cat is not in pain and if he is able to eat and walk around we should not operate on him or euthanize and allow him to be on a special diet and be alive as long as he can. With the medicine and drip my vet is hoping that in a few days y cat will not be in acute kidney failure and will drop to chronic kidney failure. My question is, is my cat in pain or is vet just trying to soothe my pain?
Add a comment to Misha female 's experience
Was this experience helpful?