Pancreatic Biopsy in Cats

Pancreatic Biopsy in Cats - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention

What is Pancreatic Biopsy?

A biopsy for cats is the act of removing samples of tissues or cells from one area of the body for microscopic analysis. A biopsy can be taken from any area in the cat’s body, but a pancreatic biopsy is removing a small portion of the pale pink organ known as the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes that break down food your cat eats and for releasing hormones that control a cat’s blood sugar levels (glucose). If your veterinarian suspects your cat’s pancreas is not functioning properly, he or she may request a pancreatic biopsy procedure. 

There are several types of biopsies available for your veterinarian to choose from to conduct a pancreatic biopsy in cats. The types of biopsies that are commonly used for felines include: 

Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy

Uses a thin needle attached to a syringe to aspirate a small sample of tissues from a suspicious area. 

Core Needle Biopsy

Uses a hollow needle to withdraw cylinders of tissue from a suspicious area. 

Stereotactic Core Needle Biopsy

Uses a computer connected to x-ray equipment to pinpoint a suspicious area inside the abdomen for the needle to aspirate from. 

Biopsy Punch

A device takes a small sample of tissue for analysis. 

Surgical Biopsy

There are two types of surgical biopsies, incision biopsy and excisional biopsy. 

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

Pancreatic Biopsy Procedure in Cats

Prior to conducting the pancreatic 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/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 a tracheal 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 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. The area above the pancreas will be shaved and cleaned with a chlorhexidine and iodine solution to sterilize the area. 
  5. The veterinarian will accomplish the pancreatic biopsy type as planned. A biopsy may be accomplished using a scalpel blade, needle, or punch. 
  6. Once the sample of tissues are 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 veterinarian’s preference.

Efficacy of Pancreatic Biopsy in Cats

The efficacy of a pancreatic biopsy in cats depends on the type of biopsy procedure used, as some procedures do not take enough cellular material to reach a proper diagnosis. The fact that the pancreas is an internal organ makes 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. 

Pancreatic 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 1-2 weeks after the procedure. 

Cost of Pancreatic Biopsy in Cats

The estimated cost for a pancreatic biopsy in cats 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 to $700. 

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Cat Pancreatic Biopsy Considerations

A biopsy can provide vital information about your cat’s condition to the veterinarian, but manipulating the pancreas by taking a biopsy sample can worsen the problem. Your cat may require hospitalization if her/his response to having a pancreatic biopsy is negative. 

Pancreatic Biopsy Prevention in Cats

The need for a biopsy in a cat cannot always 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. 

Pancreatic Biopsy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


American Shorthair




3 Years


1 found this helpful


1 found this helpful

Using ultrasound, a nodule was found on my cats pancreas, secondary to having pancreatitis. The vet wants him to have surgery for the biopsy. Why cant a (FNA) fine needle aspiration or core biopsy be done using ultrasound guidance? She said the pancreas is deep and behind the liver, thus the surgery for the bx. But if the nodule can be viewed using ultrasound, can a more skilled vet or even a radiologist (are there radiologists for animals?) get to the nodule? The surgery is quoted at $5,000. I know a core bx or a FNA would be must cheaper. Could I take the U/S images to different vets to see if they could attempt a needle bx instead of surgery?

Dec. 22, 2017

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

1 Recommendations

Thank you for contacting us about Lucki. I'm sorry that he is having these problems. A biopsy does provide more information than a fine needle aspirate as far as providing a diagnosis. It is also quite difficult to localize the pancreas via ultrasound to get a good biopsy sample, as it is deeper within the abdomen. It is never a bad idea to get a 2nd opinion when facing a serious surgery, and you may be able to find an experienced surgeon who would be able to get those biopsies, but it would be tricky. With an abdominal exploratory, the surgeon can visually identify the pancreas, and the mass, and take appropriate biopsies.

Dec. 23, 2017

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