Lung tumours in cats

A lung tumour is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lungs. Primary tumours that originate in the lungs are rare in cats. 

More than 80% of primary lung tumours are cancerous, with a high potential for spread (metastasis) to other body parts. Secondary lung tumours occur when cancer that originated in another part of the body metastasises to the lungs. 

Most lung tumour types can cause fluid to accumulate around the lungs and impair breathing. Lung tumour signs may be vague, or mimic bronchitis, asthma, or heart failure.

What are common lung tumour signs in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

  • No respiratory signs
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing or open-mouthed breathing
  • Respiratory distress
  • Lameness due to metastasis

Lethargy is common in cats with a lung tumour.

How are lung tumours managed in cats? 

Management depends on whether the lung tumour is primary or secondary.

For primary tumours, removing the portion of the affected lung is often recommended. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can be added, or used by themselves if surgery is not an option. 

For secondary lung tumours, chemotherapy is the primary treatment. Palliative care includes reducing fluid accumulation around the lungs via thoracentesis. 

Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian and a veterinary oncologist is important for the best outcome for your cat. 

What is the prognosis for cats?

The prognosis depends on the tumour type and your cat’s treatment response. With successful surgical removal of a primary tumour and no sign of metastasis, survival times can be a few months to two years. Unfortunately, secondary lung cancer has a poorer prognosis because of the cat’s late cancer stage.  

Management tips for a cat with lung tumours

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food, water, and litter box and a comfortable location
  • Consistency with prescribed medications or supplements
  • Monitoring respiratory rate and effort, appetite and energy level
  • Room purifiers and no indoor smoking

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your cat has trouble breathing, is open-mouthed breathing, or their gums or tongue are blue; if your cat cannot walk, collapses, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.