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Cat Pancreatic Cancer

Veterinarian Reviewed on April 1, 2014 by Dr. Janice Huntingford

Cat Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is a gland that assists both the exocrine and endocrine systems of a cat’s body. As part of the exocrine system it aids in digestion. It produces several hormones as part of the endocrine system. Generally the cancers of the pancreas are epithelial and unfortunately have metastasized before they are diagnosed.
These cancers are very rare in dogs.

Signs and Symptoms

As with other rare Cat Cancers, the symptoms are vague. Some include Cat Loss of Appetite which creates a significant Cat Loss of Weight, Cat Vomiting and distension of the abdomen due to the presence of the tumor. Cats can also experience hair loss as well.


Most traditional lab tests are inconclusive with pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is also very difficult to feel on physical examination. Ultrasound can be useful and will also indicate if the cancer has metastasized to the liver or other abdominal organs. Other examinations such as CT scans or an MRI have not been proven successful or beneficial in the evaluation of pancreatic cancer in pets at this point. As the availability becomes greater, they may prove to be an asset.

Pain treatment

It is very important that cats receive medication to help with the pain of not only the disease, but also the diagnostic workups that may occur.


Due to the lack of appetite, it is best to feed your cat highly nutritious foods that are specifically designed for cats with cancer.

Treatment options

The cells of pancreatic cancer spread to the lymph nodes and to the liver quickly. If this has happened, surgery will not be performed in most cases. Pancreatic surgery is very dangerous and incidence of death due to the surgery is high. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy have very limited results in pets or in humans.


Due to the quick metastasis to the lymph nodes and liver, the prognosis for cats with pancreatic cancer is very poor. Generally the symptoms are not severe enough to be noticed until the disease has entered the lymph nodes and the liver. In spite of treatment, the cat has minimal chance of survival and will have a great deal of discomfort. They will become very debilitated due to poor nutrition. This will usually occur in spite of the potential for heroic attempts to save them.

At the present time there are no clinical trials for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. It is a rare form of cancer and most of the clinical trials are done on cancers that are more prevalent in the animal kingdom. It is important to keep your cat as comfortable as possible and have a close relationship with your veterinarian.

Be aware of changes in your cat’s attitude, eating habits and elimination. How has your cat responded to pain in the past? Is your cat sleeping more? Has his or her elimination changed to any degree?

All of these things are symptoms that you should be aware of. Although early treatment is not possible due to the rapid metastasis and consequently the diagnosis, you will still want to keep your cat as comfortable as possible.

Read also: Cat Pituitary Tumors
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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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