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Bone Cancer in Cats: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Bone Cancer in Cats: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Common Types of Bone Cancer in Cats; Primary & Secondary Bone Tumors

Common Types of Bone Cancers in Cats

Also known as a primary bone tumor, bone cancer is a common diagnosis in cats. Cancers, unfortunately, come in a variety of sizes, and the placement of a cancerous tumor in cats can be almost anywhere. Adding to the wide variation of the type of bone cancer.

As you will learn from the vet, your cat will have either a primary tumor or a secondary tumor. A primary tumor is a mass of cancerous cells that form in the bone themselves, whereas a secondary tumor grows somewhere near or around the bone instead of in the bone directly. Usually, secondary tumors will arise within the bone marrow. 

Even though bone cancer and the development of tumors is a serious matter, it is not as dangerous as other types of feline cancers, like cell carcinoma. A cell carcinoma tumor forms in the skin of our cats, and it creates far more causes for concern than bone cancer. Let's take a closer look at the primary tumors because there are actually four different types of primary tumors in cats! 

The Four Types of Tumors a Cat Can Develop

As mentioned, within the category of primary tumors in cat bones, there are four different kinds of tumors. All of these tumors grow in the bones of cats, but what sets them apart is the part of the bone that they originate from. 

These four types of primary bone tumors are… 

  • Chondrosarcoma 

  • Fibrosarcoma 

  • Hemangiosarcoma 

  • Osteosarcoma 

Dogs are far more likely to develop primary bone tumors than cats, though it is still possible for cats to have primary tumors despite being very unlikely. When they do grow from the bones of cats, these primary tumors are not aggressive in most cases. 

Feline bone tumors tend to be more benign than anything, which is good news for cats. Of the four primary bone tumors in cats, the most frequently diagnosed tumor is osteosarcoma. The other three types of primary tumors are not as common in cats. Let’s take a look at these four primary tumors more closely.

Chondrosarcoma Tumors

Like other types of primary tumors, chondrosarcoma is very rare in cats. Our feline friends are not at high risk for chondrosarcoma, though it might still develop in unusual circumstances. This type of sarcoma grows from cartilage, so it's likely you'll find a primary chondrosarcoma tumor in the connective cartilage between a bone and a joint. 

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Fibrosarcoma Tumors

Fibrosarcoma is one of the more common types of bone cancer. It takes a lot for fibrosarcoma cells to metastasize and spread via the lymph nodes to other parts of a cat's body, but even so, the fibrosarcoma cells are very aggressive at their site of origin. This is what professionals refer to as a locally aggressive type of cancer. 

The exact cause of fibrosarcoma is still up in the air because researchers believe there could be multiple contributing factors to feline fibrosarcoma. However, a commonality among cats that are diagnosed with fibrosarcoma tumors is vaccination. 

It's not as though a specific vaccine is causing fibrosarcoma in cats. Instead, the tumors tend to originate at the site where the needle was injected into the cat's skin. In other words, fibrosarcoma is categorized as a vaccine-associated sarcoma or VAS for short.

Hemangiosarcoma Tumors

Hemangiosarcoma is a type of bone tumor that arises from blood vessels. Despite being very uncommon, the cancer is quite aggressive when they metastasize. Not only does hemangiosarcoma pose a major threat beyond the affected limb as it begins to spread throughout the body, but veterinarians are not sure what causes hemangiosarcoma to grow in the first place. 

Hemangiosarcoma cells are not limited to the bones either. Once they begin metastasizing, these cells can permeate throughout the body and impact just about every internal organ possible, which leads to a very low survival rate amongst cats that develop hemangiosarcoma. 

 

Osteosarcoma Tumors

Osteosarcoma is one of the most uncomfortable types of tumor in cats. It creates a lot of physical discomfort for cats with osteosarcoma tumors, which also means that these tumors are more noticeable than many other tumors in cats. Diagnosing osteosarcoma sometimes warrants a bone biopsy.

The main reason for this serious discomfort is that osteosarcoma creates a malignant tumor, meaning it is very dangerous and often fatal. The cells that osteosarcoma develops from are called osteoclasts and osteoblasts. These two cell types are essential for bone health, so the fact that cancer grows from these cells is scary. 

It disrupts the natural growth and production of bone cells, which ultimately weakens your cat's bones. They start to lose strength quite rapidly, and it leads to physical discomfort in the affected limb. Professionals are not sure what exactly causes osteosarcoma in cats. 

Benign Bone Tumors

Not classified with the other four, but still worth mentioning, benign bone tumors are non-cancerous tumors that can cause pain and lameness.

What Are the Symptoms of Bone Cancer; Primary Bone Tumors in Cats?

The exact symptoms that your cat experiences will depend on your cat’s specific situation. Each type of cancer can yield different side effects, so you might notice your cat acting in ways that are not listed here. 

Symptoms of Cat Bone Cancer

If you see anything concerning and you are worried about your cat’s behavior, please contact your pet’s veterinarian. It’s best to have your cat checked out as soon as you start to feel that something is wrong. Even though some symptoms might be different depending on the type of tumor, there are many similar symptoms that cats with bone cancer experience. 

In general, the clinical signs of bone cancer in cats include… 

  • Visible mass or lump
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Hard time chewing 
  • Difficulty eating in general 
  • Seizures or dizziness 
  • Fainting spells 
  • Problems with breathing 
  • Sensitivity to petting
  • No interest in playing
  • Unable to walk for long periods 

How are Primary Bone Tumors Diagnosed in Cats?

There are a few different ways of diagnosing primary bone tumors in cats. 

Blood tests are one of many types of diagnostic tests for cats showing signs of bone tumors. Blood tests can give insight into your cat's ALKP levels. Short for alkaline phosphatase, ALKP is a sign of damage caused by tumors in cats. Blood tests are also helpful when looking to rule out certain types of tumors in feline bones, like hemangiosarcoma cells. 

Another common way of diagnosing primary bone tumors is by conducting a biopsy of the tumor location. This diagnostic option usually follows other attempts to diagnose the issue, like the blood exams we mentioned. Essentially, during a biopsy, the vet will utilize local anesthesia for pain control and keep your cat calm during the procedure. 

The vet will withdraw a sample of cells from the bone tumor using a needle to extract them from the body. The medical professionals will examine the sample they took from the suspicious mass and determine whether or not the cells are cancerous. From there, they will let you know which steps you should take next. 

There are several ways your vet can find out if your cat has cancer. Other possible ways to diagnose cancer include advanced imaging, a body bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging, a computed tomography scan, and abdominal ultrasound.

Treating Bone Cancer and Tumors in Cats

There are a few treatment options for cats with bone cancer. And there should be two goals in mind. First, it's important to make sure your cat is comfortable, so the vet will want to treat any pain that your cat is experiencing. 

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Usually, this involves pain control methods that manage the discomfort and make the situation less grueling for your cat. Examples of pain management treatment options are medication, radiation therapy, surgical removal of the tumor, or even amputation alone if worse comes to the worst. 

This further prevents the cancer from getting worse and the cancerous cells from metastasizing to other parts of your cat's body. Tumors that remain local are a lot easier to get rid of than tumors that start spreading elsewhere, so radiation helps with keeping tumors localized. Radiation therapy is frequently used in tandem with chemotherapy for treating cancer. 

Other treatment options include… 

  • Amputation 

  • Chemotherapy 

  • Radiation therapy

  • Partial surgical removal 

The side effects of these three options can be very hard on your cat's quality of life, so usually, these are saved as a last resort. However, the exact treatment plan that your vet advises you to follow will fully depend on your cat’s situation. Please be sure to follow your vet’s instructions in order to avoid any adverse side effects. 

The right combination of treatment options will ensure that your cat is as comfortable as possible while living with a type of bone cancer. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your cat’s cancer treatment, consult the vet immediately. They are there to help you understand what is going on and they are striving to ensure that your feline friend gets healthy again.

Helping your Cat with Recovery after Treating Primary Bone Tumors

The prognosis for recovery from the treatment of bone tumors in cats is generally pretty good. The mean of survival post-amputation or surgery is 1-4 yrs. It's recommended that you follow up amputation with chemotherapy to make sure all cancer has been eradicated from your cat's body in order to maximize the time you have left with your feline friend.

We also suggest this be a time to really show your cat as much affection as they can take. They are going to feel run down, sick, and have some pain, so just being available to them will help calm and soothe your cat's needs.

CBD For Bone Cancer and Bone Tumor Growth

This can also be a time to use CBD oil for cats to help calm anxiety and pain as well as the CBD catnip, which will help them feel small bits of happiness as they go through this recovery period.

Once a cat has had a limb-sparing surgery, it will stay bandaged for about 2-3 weeks (changing bandages often and keeping an eye open on them in case of infection) and will need to wear a cone, so they don't interfere with the work that was done. The best practice would be to encourage your cat to walk in order to regain strength in that area and get them acclimated to their new way of life. They will also need to be on a nice healthy diet to keep them strong and immunity up as they recover to their normal selves. We suggest anti-inflammatory foods along with CBD to enhance the process of healing.

CBD can additionally help when treating malignant tumors due to its ability to help with the side effects caused by conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy drugs. Along with helping the side effects that come from the cancer itself. With its ability to help reduce pain, promote appetite, and ease other discomforts, asking your vet if CBD is right for your cat is a great idea!

Final Words

The healing process from cancer always has to do with the severity in nature of the diagnosis. We can not promise that everything will be fixed, but we do know with these types of diseases, a favorable outcome is much more likely when we notice the symptoms early and start prevention/treatment as early as possible.

Please do not try to treat cancer yourself, please take your cat to the vet immediately if you feel the potential of cancer has taken hold. Trying to treat cancer on your own can quickly turn a treatable situation into a poor prognosis that cuts your cat's life expectancy short.

Sources:

Osteosarcoma in Cats
Bone Tumors in Cats and Dogs
Bone Tumors/Cancer in Cats
Cannabinoids in cancer treatment

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