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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. 
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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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Biopsy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Nagini

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domestic short hair

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Breathing Difficulty
Loss Of Appetite
Anorexia
Gag
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

Nagini's Owner

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Zoe

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Tiger stripe domestic short haired cat

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Weight Loss
Lethargy
Sneezing
Anorexia
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

Zoe's Owner

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0 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 www.msdvetmanual.com/cat-owners/lung-and-airway-disorders-of-cats/rhinitis-and-sinusitis-in-cats www.msdvetmanual.com/respiratory-system/respiratory-diseases-of-small-animals/rhinitis-and-sinusitis-in-small-animals

Aug. 12, 2018

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Vlad

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DOMESTIC

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15 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My 15 year old domestic short hair was been reasontly diagnosed with IBS due to his diarrhea stools which have been increased. We went through two sets of the treatment but know the treatment is not working. He is taking prenisone once daily and changed his diet to protein high prescription food. He also got two runs of vitamin B shots. Now the vet is thinking more lypmomia and may need ultrasound, biopsy or chemo meds. With his age I am worried. He doesn't show any signs yet so it's possible early stage.

July 20, 2018

Vlad's Owner

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Without examining Vlad I cannot weigh in with a possible diagnosis; however 15 years old is a good age for a cat and you should discuss with your Veterinarian about his current state of health and the symptoms he is presenting with then decide if further testing is an appropriate course of action. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 20, 2018

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Sidney

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Short hair tabby

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17 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Only Symptom Is Weight Loss,
Weight Loss, Lab Work Normal

What kind of biopsy is done to diagnose small cell lymphoma (stomach)? My cat is 17 years old, and his veterinarian said that by feeling his stomach lining that he has small cell lymphoma. She is not equipped to perform the biopsy/treat the lymphoma in her clinic so has referred me elsewhere. I am on a restricted budget, understand that treatment for this is very expensive, and don't want to put Sidney in any more trauma/pain than makes sense, especially considering his age. Any information regarding possibility of side effects of treatment, cost of the biopsy, and cost of the treatment would be helpful.

July 4, 2018

Sidney's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Given Sidney’s age, I would be hesitant at going down the biopsy path as general anaesthesia would be required for all types of biopsy (endoscopic or surgical); surgical biopsy is best but is more expensive and has a longer recovery time than endoscopic biopsy. Any decision on performing a biopsy will be down to the Veterinarian carrying out the procedure; pricing will vary widely depending on your location (country, state, city) and whether the Veterinarian is general or specialist. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.cuvs.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/Clinical%20Brief_Feline%20SCLSA_10.17.17.Final_.pdf

July 5, 2018

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Link

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MaineCoon

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lump In Leg

I went to a vet because my cat has a huge lump in his leg. The vet did X-rays and said that they needed a biopsy (I agree of course but...) The vet then said that the biopsy would include full removal of the leg, although no mri was performed. That seemed wrong. He also said that he thinks it’s a cancer, which I KNOW only X-rays cannot confirm, you know? He also sAid the type of cancer was the most dangerous type for cats, which just seems like a lie at this point. You can’t tell that from an xray alone. And he doesn’t need his whole leg to be removed for a biopsy, right? Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/treatment/biopsy

May 30, 2018

Link's Owner

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0 Recommendations

X-rays are not diagnostic of cancer but are suggestive (so is a large lump on the leg); when it comes to biopsy, it is sometimes better to remove the mass and send it for histopathology than making two separate surgeries for biopsy and for removal. However, when we remove a mass we also need to ensure that we take a margin of healthy tissue to ensure that no cancerous cells are left behind; the leg generally doesn’t have much free skin to close a wound and in some cases when a cancerous mass is being removed it is better overall to amputate the leg. I’m not saying your Veterinarian is right, but there is logic to amputating the leg; you should take Link to another Veterinarian for a second opinion if you’re having doubts. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 31, 2018

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Sheeba

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Egyptian Mau

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10 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

Lump, size of pea on belly of unspayed 10 year old female. She is presenting with no symptoms. Vet took a chest x-ray, no metastasis. She wants to do surgery right away. I'm concerned because she did not do biopsy of lump and I want to know if it could be Fibroepithelial Hyperplasia?

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Ray

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DOMESTIC

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8 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptoms

My cat is 8 years old and a few weeks ago he had a hot spot on his front leg. Days later I noticed a lump on his hind leg. I monitored it for almost 2 weeks and then finally decided to take him to the vet. She says she is pretty sure he has Fibrosarcoma even though the fine needle aspirations came back inconclusive. Now she wants to do a biopsy to be absolutely sure, but it is pretty pricey and rightfully so. My husband and I have decided we don’t want to do an amputation if it is cancer (because it is pretty aggressive as can cancers go and with. 90% chance it will return), but the biopsy would at least give me a definitive answer. Is it worth doing the biopsy if it is only going to ease my mind? Or should I just focus on my cat and make sure he is comfortable until he is ready to go?

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Mabel

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Ragdoll

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3 Months

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Fair severity

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

I have a 3 month old female who has swelling in between her shoulder blades following her first vaccinations. The swelling doesn’t appear to be getting any bigger Is mobile and hard approx 2cm by 1cm. The vet has said monitor as swelling can be evident for up to 6 weeks and if it gets bigger becomes painful come back sooner but they may need to do a biopsy. Swelling has now been present for 4 weeks. Reading articles online it comes back with ISS, which Is a worry Any similar experiences and should I be worried? Or is this common?

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Pugs

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Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating

My rescued cat as perfectlly well but had a lump on his neck which was explained to probably be a fatty lump. Vet did a fine needle aspiration to check and popped the lump during it. He was given sedation which caused his eyes to stare and his mouth to be all frothy when I fetched him home, and ever since then he has been so ill, his personality has changed, he isnt interested in us at all, no longer a loving cat but more importantly he is losing weight through refusing all food. he does appear to be very tentatively drinking water. follow up vet appointment showed a problem with his kidneys. He was on a drip for 3 days. he is now on antibiotics for his kidney problem but my cat is so ill.i understand about the nausea with kidney problems but he is trying to eat and when he was taking a small mouthful he winces and tries to chew on one side of his mouth but cant.then he just walks away. he has lost so much weight. he is still on his antibiotics. my question is, could the biopsy and sedation have affected his mouth, the vets have opened his mouth a bit and had a quick look but say its fine. my cat wants to eat but appears to be in discomfort when he tries. his little tummy is rumbling all the time, ive tried a syringe with kitten milk, all sorts of food, mashing it up, gravy based which he does lick but he refuses anything. If feeks he is dying in front of my eyes and the vets just say its his kidneys and keep giving him the antibiotics..he has not eaten more than a few mouthfuls of food in weeks, how he is still alive I don't know. he is now struggling to walk properly.Im so upset, any thoughts would be a help please...

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Finn

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tabby

dog-age-icon

13 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

Weight Loss
Rapid Breathing
Lack Of Appetite
Sitting On Elbows
Nose Twitching

I have a 12-13 yr indoor (Houston,TX) male cat who was showing signs of weight loss, rapid breathing (and nose twitching like a bunny) and mostly sitting on his back legs & elbows (vs laying down). Xrays and blood work done. All blood work was good. At first thought pneumonia but radiaograpic finding indicates severe mixed pulmonary pattern with a predominant structured interstitial pattern. Differentials include metastatic neoplasia or granulomatous disease (fungal or parasitic). Biopsy of lung or transtracheal wash recommended with cytology. Both seemed invasive and vet felt perhaps getting a good result was iffy (getting proper tissue or cells). Vent concluded if cancer we would treat with Prednisone and if fungal with anti-fungal meds. Considering respiratory issues now, age, past hallucinations on prior sedation and possibility that biopsy could be unclear I opted to treat with both meds(as long as it didn't cause harm. And we are giving him Entyce (appetite stimulant). We are 2 days into meds, he is less lethargic, his eating is up 30-40% and he's acting a good bit better. Nose no longer twitching, breathing isn't quite as rapid as 3 days ago. So question - what are my odds this is fungal vs cancer and prognosis either way? Am I fooling myself and overly hopeful?

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