Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), a malignant cancer of the epithelial cells of the bladder lining, is the most common type of bladder cancer in cats. Other less common types of feline cancer that affect the bladder are squamous cell carcinoma (a common form of skin cancer), adenocarcinoma (derived from glandular epithelium) and a highly malignant neoplasm derived from the striated muscle.
The signs of cat cancer when it occurs in the bladder resemble the symptoms of urinary tract infections, making it difficult to detect the condition in its earlier stages. The most common signs are blood in the urine, painful urination, increased frequency in urination, or straining to urinate.
Similar to other cancers, diagnosis is done on the basis of complete blood and urine profiles, including urine culture. Other tests like X-Rays and other imaging tests of the chest, abdomen and the bladder also need to be done to confirm the diagnosis. The final confirmation, however, can be done only through a biopsy of the bladder tissue.
Although derived from the cells of the membranous tissue covering the bladder, bladder cancer normally invades the bladder wall, and surgical excision is not possible. Treatment options are thus limited to traditional chemotherapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The cause of bladder cancer is not exactly known, but it is suspected that the cause is related to carcinogenic substances that are passed through the urine. Exposure to these carcinogens can be direct or indirect, and in some cases, certain drugs used for treating immune diseases in cats are metabolized into a carcinogenic chemical and passed out through the urine.
Although rare in cats, bladder cancer, like lymphoma in cats, is a life-threatening disease. There is a strong possibility that the TCC would have spread to other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed. If it is not treated, it can lead to blockage of the urinary tract and ultimately a cessation in urination.
Inability to urinate should not be shrugged off as urinary infections, as they are relatively uncommon in cats. Rather, bladder cancer in cats may lead to development of urinary infections due to the damage caused to the bladder’s natural defenses against infections. Older cats with recurring urinary problems that do not respond to antibiotic therapy and bloody urine strongly indicate bladder cancer. A proper veterinarian evaluation would help in diagnosis and relevant treatment to improve the quality of life of your companion pet.