Biopsy in Cats

Biopsy in Cats - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention
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What is Biopsy?

A biopsy for cats is the act of removing samples of tissues or cells from one area of the body for microscopic analysis. Biopsies require general and/or local anesthetic to perform, as it is an invasive procedure. The removal of tissues and/or cells is conducted by a licensed veterinarian, prepared for analysis by a veterinary technician, and cytological evaluated is conducted by a veterinary pathologist laboratory technician. A biopsy can be taken from any area in the cat’s body and several types of biopsies are available for your veterinarian to choose from. The types of biopsies that are commonly used for felines include the following: 

Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy: the use of a thin needle attached to a syringe to aspirate a small sample of tissues from a suspicious area. 

Core Needle Biopsy: the use of a hollow needle to withdraw cylinders of tissue from a suspicious area. 

Stereotactic Core Needle Biopsy: the use of a computer hooked up to x-ray equipment to pinpoint a suspicious area inside the abdomen for the needle to aspirate from. 

Biopsy Punch: the skin is numbed and a small device takes a sample of tissue for analysis. 

Surgical Biopsy: there are two types of surgical biopsies; Incision biopsy and excisional biopsy. 

  • Incision Biopsy: removal enough of the tissue to make a diagnosis.
  • Excisional Biopsy: removal of entire tumor or suspected area. 

Biopsy Procedure in Cats

Prior to conducting the biopsy procedure, the veterinarian will complete a physical examination and review the feline’s medical history. As radiographs, a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound was likely what provoked the need for a biopsy, the results of these test will be reviewed. The cat’s blood and urine will be analyzed to ensure she or he is healthy enough to undergo the procedure, as well as general anesthesia. 

  1. The feline will be injected with a pre-anesthetic drug or sedative. 
  2. The feline will have an esophageal tube placed to infuse oxygen and a gas anesthetic. The feline will be taken to the surgical/biopsy area. 
  3. Oxygen and gas anesthetic will be attached to the esophageal tube, where the rate of infusion will be calculated based on the cat’s weight and age, as well as the duration of the procedure. 
  4. Placement of the cat will depend on the area affected and the hair may be shaved if necessary. The area may also be cleaned with a chlorhexidine and iodine solution to sterilize the area (not necessary for lung biopsy procedures).
  5. An injectable local anesthetic may be injected into the suspicious area. In surgical biopsy incidences, an anesthetic regional block may be the veterinarian’s choice. An anesthetic block is the act of anesthetizing a total area and preventing nerve responses from triggering pain. 
  6. The veterinarian will accomplish the biopsy type as planned. A biopsy may be accomplished using a scalpel blade, needle, or punch. 
  7. Once the sample of tissues or entire tumor is taken from the feline, the sample is given to the veterinary technician to prepare for the lab and the incision site is closed. The biopsy site may be stitched, stapled or glued closed depending on the area affected. 

Efficacy of Biopsy in Cats

The efficacy of a feline biopsy depends on the type of biopsy procedure used, as some procedures do not take enough cellular material to reach a proper diagnosis. The affected area of the cat can also make performing a biopsy difficult, but when a biopsy is taken successfully, the act of conducting a biopsy is highly effective in diagnosing a suspicious area. 

Biopsy Recovery in Cats

After the biopsy procedure, the cat will be allowed to return home but activities will be restricted until the incision site has healed. An Elizabethan collar will likely be sent home with the patient to prevent chewing, licking or manipulating the affected area. Results of the biopsy are typically available one to two weeks after the procedure. 

Cost of Biopsy in Cats

The estimated cost for a feline biopsy is roughly $150, but greatly depends on the type of biopsy performed. Initial workups, such as the initial examination, blood work, radiographs and other diagnostic imagery, can bring your total cost anywhere from $450-$700. 

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Cat Biopsy Considerations

A biopsy can provide vital information about your cat’s condition to the veterinarian, but the price of the procedure may be off-putting to a cat owner. The use of anesthetic may also be of concern for older or very young feline patients. 

Biopsy Prevention in Cats

The need for a biopsy in a cat cannot be prevented. A biopsy is often necessary to identify suspicious tissues and it is not until the biopsy is performed will a cat owner known how to prevent the feline illness. 

Biopsy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


domestic short hair




11 Years


4 found this helpful


4 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Breathing Difficulty
Loss Of Appetite
Throat Pain
My 11-yo cat stopped eating/drinking and continually gagging/licking her lips on 8/30. Took her to emergency vet on 9/2. They did x-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork and endoscopy. Nothing showed up that looked weird, but by that time she was having some difficulty breathing so they gave her oxygen, steroids, and antibiotics, as well as placed a nasal feeding tube and IVs for fluids. Now it's 9/5 and they're recommending an esophageal feeding tube and biopsy of her throat because she's still exhibiting the same behavior - not eating/drinking and gagging at her food, holding her neck weird. My concern is the biopsy. One vet said it's dangerous, another didn't mention that at all. Is it dangerous to do this? What are some complications we should consider? I don't know what else we can do honestly, so we will likely do this but I'm so scared. I don't want her to get any worse. :(

Sept. 5, 2018

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Tiger stripe domestic short haired cat




13 Years


4 found this helpful


4 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Weight Loss
Runny Eyes
Not Social
Hi. About three weeks ago, my 13-year-old cat began having sneezing fits and I initially wrote it off as her herpes flaring up as it does from time to time. However, it didn’t clear up as it normally does. She began having raspy breathing, diarrhea, no appetite and, after weighing her, I became super concerned because she had lost three pounds (from 11 down to 8) pretty rapidly. She was first diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, given fluids for dehydration and put on vitamins and amoxicillin. She did not improve after the weekend though so I took her back and she was referred to a specialty vet’s office. After spending nearly $4,000 on X-rays and a CT scan, my cat has been diagnosed with chronic rhinitis as a result of her herpes infection when she was a kitten. They have sent two biopsies off to a lab and I will hear back in a few days. My question is what will the biopsies show? It’s my understanding that they didn’t see any masses in the CT scan, so I am not really sure what exactly they biopsied. Also, does this diagnosis of chronic rhinitis sound plausible from all of her symptoms? It feels like there is more going on (I originally feared cancer of some kind) but I don’t know. Right now, she is on azithromycin, cyproheptadine and maropitant. She has thankfully started eating again but the diarrhea seems to be returning as well. Any advice would be so welcomed. Thank you for your time.

Aug. 11, 2018

4 Recommendations

A biopsy is useful for various different reasons as we can get an idea about what is going on there: the types of cells present (cancerous, fungal, bacteria, inflammatory cells etc…), any debris (irritants, small foreign objects etc…), tumours (I know clear on CT) among other things. The diarrhoea may be a side effect of mediation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 12, 2018

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