Cats & stomach tumors

Updated February 21, 2017

The stomach is a muscular organ that secretes acids and enzymes as part of the process of digestion. There are several types of tumours that can affect a cat's stomach lining. Some of these tumours are benign while others are cancerous and can be fatal. The causes of these tumours can be environmental, dietary, genetic or unknown.


According to the website Vet Cancer Care, tumours of the stomach lining (epithelium) include non-cancerous polyps and gastritis. Some stomach tumours are cancerous (malignant) and, without treatment, usually continue to grow, ultimately killing the animal. Cancerous tumours of the stomach spread quickly. Benign stomach tumours are rarer than malignant stomach tumours in cats.


According to the website Pet Place, symptoms of stomach tumours in cats can include: weight loss, diarrhoea, protracted vomiting, loss of appetite, change in bladder habits, offensive odour, difficulty eating or swallowing and abdominal enlargement. The most common symptoms are vomiting (sometimes with blood) and weight loss.


The cause of feline stomach tumours is often unclear. According to Vet Cancer Care, some breeds of cat are more prone to developing benign and cancerous stomach tumours, though the gene responsible has not been identified. Some foods that irritate the stomach lining have been implicated in certain tumours. Current research is investigating the relationship between Helicobacter pylori bacteria and stomach cancer in cats. Helicobacter pylori is an organism associated with stomach cancer in humans.


According to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, a diagnosis of stomach tumours is made through X-rays, CAT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs and blood work. Once a tumour is found, a tumour biopsy is performed to determine whether the cells are benign or malignant.


Usually benign tumours can be surgically removed with minimal recovery time. However, if a tumour is cancerous, surgical removal of the mass is often not enough to prevent the cancerous cells from regrowing another tumour, according to Pet Place. Targeted chemotherapy is the only effective treatment for many malignant tumours, and veterinarians will often consult with pet owners to determine the most cost-effective and humane treatment for critically ill cats.

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