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Mast Cell Tumors in Cats – Cause | Symptoms | treatment



Mast Cell Tumors in Cats – Cause | Symptoms | treatment

Mast cell tumors in cats are less frequent than in dogs and generally less aggressive. Let’s see the cause, symptoms and treatment of this pathology.

The cats affected by these tumors are generally middle-aged and also older, (Photo Pixabay)

The mast cell in cats can occur in any part of the animal’s body, but is most common in parts such as the skin on the head or neck. The cats affected by these tumors are generally middle-aged and also older, but it must be said that it is quite frequent that a cat can come out in the best conditions from this pathology, including small kittens.

InfattIn cats, skin lesions caused by mast cells are often benign. In some cases, surgery is not necessary because the problem resolves itself. The breed most subject to this problem, seems to be the Siamese, develop a specific type of tumor called histiocytic mast cell tumor.

Cause of mast cell in cats

Mast cell tumors are fortunately uncommon in cats. (Photo Pixabay)

The mast cell in cats is part of the tumors not particularly frequent in felines, fortunately. Cases of mast cell in cats are approximately 3% of the reported malignancies, usually involving middle-aged specimens or elderly cats. The average age of felines diagnosed with a mast cell is 10 years and they are usually FeLV negative.

The mast cell in cats differs from the mast cell in dogs because in the feline case, the tumor can occur both in cutaneous and visceral form, even the two forms can also be present simultaneously.

  • The cutaneous form of mast cell in cats is characterized by the presence of nodules that can be anywhere on the body although there are areas that are most prone to this type of cancer and are head and neck.
  • The visceral form causes problems both in the blood and in the gastrointestinal system but we can also speak of mast cell in the systemic cat if the blood and lymphatic vessels are involved, therefore blood, spleen, liver and bone marrow. This form has an unfavorable prognosis and is associated with clinical signs such as vomiting, weight loss and loss of appetite.

Symptoms of the mast cell in cats

The main symptoms of mast cell in cats are: vomiting, anorexia and diarrhea. (Pixabay photo)

The symptoms of mast cell in cats are a little misleading, it is very easy to associate them with other diseases as well, not being so different, but if the mast cell in the skin cat can also be visible, if we speak instead of the visceral one, in order to be recognized it will be necessary to evaluate the symptoms. These are the main symptoms that the cat accuses:

Mast cells can vary from day to day, depending on the degree of inflammation generated by cell degranulation.

Diagnosis and treatment

veterinary cat
The veterinarian may recommend performing additional staging tests, such as an ultrasound of the abdomen and / or chest radiographs.

Mast cell tumors in cats can be diagnosed with precision by simply subjecting the cat to a needle drawn, but in some cases, this may not be enough and advanced cytological examination will be necessary, such as immunohistochemistry, at the time of histopathological evaluation.

The degree of the tumor which determines the general prognosis of the animal it can be assessed only after performing a surgical biopsy and histopathological analysis of the tumor. Once removed, the tumor is sent to histopathology.

The veterinarian may recommend performing additional staging tests, such as an ultrasound of the abdomen and / or chest radiographs, to determine if there are signs of malignant tumor cells and to check for metastases at the time of diagnosis.

In particular abdominal ultrasound is used to evaluate the size, shape and rough texture of the abdominal organs. For the treatment of mast cell in cats, the first thing to do after the established diagnosis, is to intervene surgically to be able to totally eliminate cancer cells. The removed tumor will be sent to histopathology to obtain confirmation of the type and phase of the tumor.

Once you have determined this information, the specialist veterinarian in these particular oncological diseases, will establish the treatment adequate to be able to proceed with the treatment of the cat, through the use of radiation and chemotherapy after surgery. Specifically, we explain what it all consists of.


In the presence of cancer, surgery is the first form of treatment for the sick cat, as with it the malignant mass present in the cat’s body is eliminated. The vet will decide if it is useful to proceed with the total elimination or proceed with the partial assisted by chemotherapy or radiotherapy.


Radiation therapy consists of external radiation towards cancer cells, with the aim of killing them but unfortunately also destroys healthy cells. The treatment lasts from 3 to 5 weeks. The most frequent side effects are cat vomiting, nausea, hair loss and skin irritation, which can be controlled with the use of medications.


Chemotherapy are drugs used to kill diseased cells from the body. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs cannot differentiate between benign and diseased cells, and this is precisely the reason why hair falls out in people undergoing chemotherapy.

Furthermore, it is not always able to cure cat cancer, but it can slow down its progression and improve your quality of life. There are several types of chemotherapy drugs that can be used based on the type of cancer the cat developed. Chemotherapy is typically used in combination with surgery and / or radiation therapy.

So the first thing will be surgery followed by radiotherapy sessions and finally chemotherapy. As for the latter, this type of treatment will have to be used in the case of the cat, only if the disease is spread to other organs or we are talking about high-grade tumors.

For the prognosis it will be kept in mind that lower grade tumors have longer survival times and higher grade tumors have shorter survival times. Additional prognostic factors include breed, clinical presentation, tumor localization in the cat, staging results and surgical margins.

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