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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.  

Kidney Cancer Average Cost

From 432 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,500

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)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Behavioral changes
  • Pale gums
  • Dull coat
  • Poor skin condition
  • Bad breath
  • Anemia
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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.

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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.

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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.

Surgery 

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.

Chemotherapy 

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.

Radiation Therapy 

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.

Antibiotics 

After surgery is complete, and if an infection was present at the time of blood work, antibiotics will be prescribed to remove bacteria.

Supportive Care 

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.

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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. 

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Kidney Cancer Average Cost

From 432 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,500

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Kidney Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Liquorice

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moggy

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Reduced Appetite, Thirsty,Lethargic

My cat is 13, she’s lost a lot of weight, is lethargic and not really eating. Due to an enlarged kidney the vet suspects a tumour. I refused blood tests and a biopsy as I don’t want to put her through this, I love her too much. Today she vomited a blood clot. How do I know if she’s in pain? I don’t want her to suffer so I’ll put her down when the time comes. How will I know if she’s in pain and the time has come? She still cuddles and purrs when she’s awake.

April 4, 2018

Liquorice's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Unfortunately, without seeing Liquorice, I can't comment on whether she is in pain, but kidney disease is a very unpleasant way to die. If she is still eating, and drinking, and seems comfortable and purrs because she is happy, that seems that she is not suffering. If she is not eating, or starts hiding, crying, or becoming depressed, it may be time to make a kind decision for her. I hope that you have some time left with her.

April 4, 2018

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Chip

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Tortoiseshell

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Unable To Hold Urine And Bowels

Chip starting pooping in the bed almost twice a week. It seemed he was constipated at first. Today Chip started to urinate on the couches and poop anywhere he wanted to. My family and I think it maybe behavioral but we aren’t sure if it’s something worse.

March 12, 2018

Chip's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Chip I cannot say whether or not this is behavioural or due to a medical issue; what is important for you to note is whether he is consciously urinating and defecating or it is coming out without his knowledge. You should visit your Veterinarian for an examination and to rule out medical causes, once they have been ruled out you can work on behaviour. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 12, 2018

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Gwen

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Maine Coon

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15 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

Depression
Weight Loss
Uncomfortable
Starving

My cat has kidney cancer.She has lost a lot of weight,and always has her head down. She is 15 years old and too old to be put through chemo. My question is, when do we euthanize her? What are some signs?

Feb. 26, 2018

Gwen's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that Gwen is having this happen to her. I can't comment on her quality of life without seeing her, but there does usually come a point with kidney disease where their quality of life just isn't there anymore. It would be best to have your veterinarian examine her and give you an opinion on whether she is suffering. They'll be able to see her, assess her health status, and give you an honest opinion on whether she is enjoying life. I hope that you have her for a while longer.

Feb. 26, 2018

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Cheeko

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Bobcat

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6 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

Weight Loss
Moaning
Sitting Most Of The Day

My cat has Cancer and failing kidneys. I don't think it's kidney cancer. He always looked fine but wasn't I guess. I just want him to live. He lost a lot of weight in June. I haven't taken him to a vet until September. Then I took him in December. The doctor says it's serious. I don't know how long he will live. I just love him and his cat brother needs him.

Jan. 31, 2018

Cheeko's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that Cheeko is having problems. Without examining him, I am not sure what treatments he might benefit from, but your veterinarian will be able to give him any supportive care that he may need, such as fluids, appetite stimulants, or anti nausea medications. I hope that you are able to keep him comfortable for a while longer.

Feb. 1, 2018

He had a blood test. Also a poop test.

Feb. 2, 2018

Cheeko's Owner

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princess

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Siamese

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6 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

Weight Loss
Loss Of Appetite

my mom just told me my cat who is 6years old has kidney cancer in both kidneys. how long do you think she has?

Jan. 25, 2018

princess' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I"m sorry that Princess is sick. There are a number of factors that might decide how long she will live, and without examining her, I'm afraid I can't give you an answer to that question. Princess's veterinarian will have a better idea how she is doing, what exactly is wrong with her, and whether any treatment will help. It would be best to ask that question of them, as they know more about her situation. I hope that you have some time left with her.

Jan. 25, 2018

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Phoebe

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American Shorthair

dog-age-icon

14 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Frequent Urination

My little sweetie Phoebe is 14. With blood tests, symptoms, and x-ray doc thinks it’s kidney cancer. I want her to be comfortable and happy with the time she has left. She is eating a little, not as active, sleeping a lot, lost a lot of weight, drinking a lot of water, and frequently urinating. When will I know she is ready for kitty heaven? She is on steroids to get the appetite going, but she doesn’t seem like herself. I want to avoid a painful or uncomfortable death. What should I do?

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Molly

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Hymalaian

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15 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss, Not Active

I have a beautiful hymalaian cat that is 15 years old. About 3 weeks ago I noticed she had lost lot of weight, weighed 11,5 lbs in June and 7.5 in October. Also not active and seemed to want to hide in strange places, by commode. She also couldn't make the walk from my bedroom to laundry room where good is. I do have bowl of water in bedroom. Took her to Vet. Did blood work, Etc. Xrays. One kidney was larger than other one. Went back next day for ultra sound. Mass in large kidney. Since she is so old, surgery not could option. Gave me something to inject into her once a day and some medicine to stimulate appetite. Said she could live maybe 2 or 3 months and that I wound know when to let her go. She nibbles the juice from wet food and will eat a little chicken, drinks water. I cant stand to see her like this but can't stand to let her go. I don't think she is in any pain. Even her meow is different. My heart is broken. She is my baby, Mollycat.

Kidney Cancer Average Cost

From 432 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,500

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