Lung tumours in cats

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
September 26, 2021

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. 

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.

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