Bladder cancer is a disease that affects a handful of cats every year. As the name suggests, feline bladder cancer is located in the urinary bladder of cats. Another name for this disease is urinary bladder cancer.
Considered part of the pelvic region of your cat's body, the urinary bladder is responsible for holding onto urine before it is emptied when your cat uses the litter box. As a muscular sac that sits right by the pubic bone of your cat, the bladder is an essential part of your cat's overall internal processes.
Additionally, the urine that gets stored in the bladder is created inside of the kidneys, so your cat's bladder connects to the kidneys as well. The connection between the bladder and kidneys is made possible by the duo of ureters that extend from the kidneys to the bladder.
The urinary tract is often thought of solely as the path that urine travels as it leaves the body of your cat. However, the urinary tract encompasses the kidneys and the bladder, too! So, in a way, bladder cancer in cats can be thought of as a cancer of the lower urinary tract as well.
Types of Bladder Cancers in Cats
There are a few different types of cancer cats can be diagnosed with, the most popular of which being transitional cell carcinomas. All the following cancers may benefit from using CBD oil alongside their treatment.
We'll talk about that in more detail shortly, but the less common types of bladder cancers stem from bladder tumors. When tumors appear in the urinary tract of cats, the cells that line the urinary tract are affected.
Transitional Cell Carcinomas
Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is a prevalent type of bladder cancer for cats, and more cats get diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma than other types of bladder cancer every year. TCC can be thought of like a very intense version of all that we've explained thus far.
TCC always manifests as a tumor in the urinary tract system of cats, often embedding itself within the bladder wall of felines. Like cancer, transitional cell carcinoma has the potential to spread to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes and other organs that are nearby.
As TCC becomes exacerbated and the cancerous cells begin to spread, it starts to negatively impact the muscles of your cat as well, weakening their frame as cancer progresses. While this cancer usually presents as a tumor in the bladder, TCC can also cause cancerous tumors to appear in the kidneys, the ureters, or the urethra.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer in Cats
The majority of clinical signs denoting a cat that has bladder cancer are going to relate to the urination process. Most cats will start to exhibit odd behavior as it pertains to using the litter box. Some cats might express an inability to urinate as well. From using the bathroom more frequently than usual to rarely making it to the litter box in time to urinate, pay close attention to your cat's bathroom habits.
More specific symptoms include:
- Straining to urinate
- Blood in the urine
- Inability to urinate
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
The official term for blood in the urine is hematuria. Cats that have painful urination and therefore do not urinate are understood to have dysuria. If your cat seems to be urinating very frequently with little urine each time, then your cat likely has a condition known as pollakiuria.
How Bladder Cancer is Diagnosed
Bladder cancer is diagnosed in a few distinct ways. Usually, it is discovered after pet owners mention their cats have been acting quite unusually. At that point, the cats are taken in to see their veterinarians, and the vets perform a variety of tests to figure out the cause of the cat's change in behavior.
Odd behavior is one of many clinical signs of a cat with bladder cancer. Vets have other clinical signs that they keep an eye out for. Still, to receive a definitive diagnosis, veterinarians must conduct specific tests that accurately pinpoint bladder cancer as the culprit.
To fully understand the cause of your pet's discomfort, blood work must be done, as well as an X-ray and sometimes even a CT scan to top it all off. The medical professionals trained in understanding cat behavior will likely perform urine tests as well because it's essential that they determine whether the circumstances are the result of bladder cancer or a urinary tract infection. Symptoms can manifest very similarly for these two very different situations, so diagnosing cats is a test-intensive process.
How to Treat Cats with Bladder Cancer
Unfortunately, bladder cancer is a diagnosis that carries a low life expectancy rate once the cancerous cells are spotted. Without treatments, cats are likely to live around five months, on average. Whereas diagnosed and treated cats are looking at a lifespan of closer to a year. When your cat is diagnosed with bladder cancer, these statements can be very upsetting to hear.
Thankfully, there are a few treatment options for cats. And with the right treatment, cats with bladder cancer can go on to survive for upwards of a year after receiving their diagnosis. Of course, we all wish that our pets could live forever, but when urinary bladder cancer enters the picture, the goal is to keep your cat as comfortable as possible.
The main goal is figuring out how to rid your cat's bladder of cancerous cells. To be cancer-free, professionals need to zero in on ways to take out as many cancer cells as possible. Two options involve directly tackling the cause of bladder cancer, which is the cancerous cells themselves.
Surgical Removal of Bladder Tumors
The main option is to perform surgery to remove the cancerous bladder tumors along the bladder wall of your cat. Surgical removal is used on a case-by-case basis, so it's hard to say if your cat will need to go under anesthesia and endure surgery. The decision to surgically remove the cancer is less likely to be made for elderly cats and incredibly young kittens alike because the operation is risky for cats at both ends of the age spectrum.
Chemotherapy and Radiation for Feline Bladder Cancer
Sometimes, vets will notice that the lymph nodes of cats have become infected by the cancerous cells. This is a significant discovery to make because it means the cancer is spreading from the urinary tract to the surrounding lymph nodes, which will signal to the vets that the situation is in dire need of immediate treatment. If your vet notices inflamed lymph nodes, chemotherapy might be considered as well.
Radiation therapy is often introduced as a treatment option for cats of all ages and severities. Radiation therapy relies on literal radiation to eliminate the cancerous cells as well as prevent other cancer cells from growing.
Urinary Catheters for Cats with Bladder Cancer
Treatment options for cats with bladder cancer also include the introduction of a urinary catheter, though catheters are more supplemental than anything. For cats, a urinary catheter is the best choice when the natural flow of urine is obstructed. However, it can be used for treatment in cats that are having any unnatural urination patterns. If a urinary catheter is part of the chosen treatment plan, a professional will attach a catheter to your cat's bladder.
From there, the urine is redirected into a container known as a drainage bag. The goal is to allow for the removal of urine even when the cat's body isn't operating in the ways it is intended to function. Long story short, catheters for feline bladder cancer allow the bladder to be emptied when it otherwise cannot be, and this can alleviate a lot of the tension cats feel as a result of their condition.
The kidneys tend to be the primary organ that is pressed down upon, seeing as the urine remains inside of the kidneys if the bladder is not accessible. Additionally, catheters are helpful in situations where obstruction of the bladder isn't the main contributing factor. Sometimes, cats cannot control when or where they urinate, so catheters take that difficulty away by collecting the urine whenever it begins to flow.
NSAIDs for Cats with Bladder Cancer
Some cats are even prescribed oral medication to get their condition under control. The most effective medicine for cats with bladder cancer tends to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs for short.
They minimize the internal inflammation that TCC causes, but it's important that cats not be on a lifelong prescription of NSAIDs. The reason behind this cautionary statement is that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause imbalances to occur after a while.
Always ask your veterinarian for their advice on the right method of treatment for your cat with bladder cancer, and keep up with regular vet appointments to ensure that everything is going well during the treatment period.
Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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