What is Urinary Bladder Cancer?
Urinary bladder cancer in cats is characterized by an abnormal growth of cells within the urinary bladder. The most common type urinary bladder cancer seen in cats is rooted from a tumor called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). This type of cancer-causing tumor forms from the cells lining the thick wall of the bladder and can quickly spread to the lymph nodes, kidneys, lungs, and bones as well as adjacent urinary tract organs (vagina, prostate, urethra, ureters). Urinary bladder cancer is a rare disease in cats, as a near 1 percent accounts for all TCC feline cases, but this type of cancer is fast acting and deadly.
Like most forms of cancer, urinary bladder cancer in cats is an abnormal growth of cells that has occurred for idiopathic (unknown) reasons. Urinary bladder cancer is most commonly seen in female cats around the age of seven, but is also seen in males. Urinary bladder cancer in cats mimics the same symptoms as a bladder infections, which makes it critical for pet owners to have their feline examined by a veterinary medical professional.
Symptoms of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Cats
The first signs of urinary bladder cancer mimic those of a bladder infection and most pet owners interpret straining to urinate, frequent urination, and urinary incontinence as a simple bacterial infection. Urinary bladder cancer, however, easily spreads to other areas of the body and may soon show the following symptoms:
- Bloody urine
- Urethral obstruction causing an inability to urinate
- Pain upon palpation of the back or pelvic regions
- Exercise intolerance
- Polyuria with only a small amount of urine passed
- Vocalization upon urination
- Difficulty breathing
- Weight loss
If the feline has an obstructed urethra, the cat will have a full bladder without the ability to urinate, which becomes an emergency situation instantly. If your cat is continuously going to the litter box to urinate and no urine has been passed, seek emergency veterinary help immediately.
Causes of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Cats
Urinary bladder cancer in cats, as well as in all other mammals, occurs for idiopathic reasons. Cancer itself is the result of mutated cells upsetting the body’s routine regulation of cell replacement, but the particular reason why this happens is not straightforward. Veterinary specialists have reported that obese felines have a higher chance in developing the disease, but excessive weight is not directly linked to this condition.
Diagnosis of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Cats
Diagnosing urinary bladder cancer in cats begins with a physical examination, blood tests and urinalysis to rule out the possibility of a urinary bladder infection. However, a urinalysis can also detect the signs of urinary cancer too, as traces of cancer cells can occasionally be found in the urine. A feline’s blood work often has a normal result even if he or she does have urinary cancer, but a blood analysis is helpful to evaluate other organs the cancer may be affecting. Your veterinarian may choose to perform a VBTA test, or veterinary bladder tumor antigen test, a type of urine screening test to detect a bladder tumor. The VBTA test will either show a positive or negative result. If the result is positive, your veterinarian may proceed to perform the following diagnostic exams:
An ultrasound of the abdomen can help the veterinarian determine the size, location and activity of the tumor inside the bladder.
An x-ray may be used to detect where the cancer has spread throughout the body, but may prove ineffective for locating the bladder tumor itself without a highlighting element (cystogram).
A cystogram is a test that introduces a special dye that will highlight the insides of the cat and highlight the tumor on x-ray.
Once the tumor is located, a biopsy can be taken from the mass to evaluate if it is malignant or benign.
Treatment of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Cats
Treating urinary bladder cancer in cats can be attempted through surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Surgically removing the bladder tumor is only possible when the mass is located in a non-invasive area. If the tumor is found within the urethra or ureters, as in most cases, surgical removal would not be advised for these are vital structures. In that case, the veterinarian may perform a debulking surgery which would simply reduce the tumor in size. Debulking is only a temporary treatment to alleviate symptoms, as the mass will continue to grow back.
The perfect chemotherapy drug mixture is still to be decided for effectively treating urinary bladder cancer, as less than 20 percent of felines respond to the current protocol.
Radiation Therapy Treatment
Radiation therapy has proven to be more effective than chemotherapy in treating urinary bladder cancer in cats, but radiation rays often damage urinary structures.
Treatments for urinary bladder cancer in cats are performed to give a feline a better quality of life, but there is no cure for this disease.
Recovery of Urinary Bladder Cancer in Cats
Whether you choose to seek treatment for your cat’s urinary bladder cancer or not, the overall prognosis for an affected cat is poor. Cats that have received treatment are estimated to live between six months to a year, whereas untreated cats often pass at four to six months.
Your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug, such as pirioxicam, to relieve bladder pain and provide a better quality of life for your cat. Ask your veterinarian about the best recovery and management options for your cat, as each urinary bladder cancer case is different.
Urinary Bladder Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My female cat was diagnosed with kidney disease about 2 months ago. Shortly after I found out she also has bladder cancer. The tumor is too large to remove, or do chemo or radiation. She was being treated for UTI’s the past year and I had no idea she had cancer. I’m just sick about this. What causes bladder cancer? I’ve always taken excellent care of her and the best food there is.
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I received my Siamese at an older age she would frequently run out of the litter box and meow. I associated much of her noice becaus she is a very vocal cat. Lately she has been urinating in random spots and I just assumed old age was a factor and a recent move. Within the last week she has begun urinating in her sleep and wishing the last few days a mass quickly developed and opened on her back paw. Could this all be cancer related? I work in healthcare and have been cleaning and changing her bandage as well as applying a silver antimicrobial wound gel. I will be taking her to the vet as soon as I can. I am hoping for some info in the meantime.
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Cat has had blood in urine for 2-3 weeks now. Had antibiotics and 10 days of Metacam still there. Fine in herself - eating, drinking, going in her litter tray, not straining, going outside as usual. She's only 3 & a half.
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