Kidney Cancer (Adenocarcinoma) in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on May 27, 2009

Renal Adenocarcinoma in Cats

Adenocarcinoma of the kidneys is an extremely rare neoplasm in cats. When it does occur, it commonly affects older cats. There is no breed predisposition in cats for this type of tumor. Like other adenocarcinomas, adenocarcinoma of the kidney is very aggressive, growing rapidly and metastasizing to other parts and organs of the body. Another version of kidney adenocarcinoma, known as cystadenocarcinoma, is less aggressive; affected cats survive for longer period of time as compared to those with adenocarcinoma.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms are mostly non-specific and include:

  • Gradual weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Low energy level and lethargy
  • Blood in urine 


The exact cause of adenocarcinoma of kidney is still unknown. It is categorized as idiopathic.


Your veterinarian will need a thorough history of your cat's health, including a background history of symptoms. The doctor will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, including a complete blood count, biochemical profile, and a urinalysis to rule out or confirm other causes for these symptoms. Urinalysis remains crucial in the diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the kidneys, as it will provide important clues toward the final diagnosis. The presence of blood, proteins, and bacteria in the blood will be determined, and a urine culture will be performed to rule out any infectious causes. Sometimes, tumor cells are also seen in the urine, which is sufficient for establishing a preliminary diagnosis. Further diagnostics include X-ray and ultrasound imaging, which will demonstrate the presence, size, location and other important information regarding the tumor. If required, your veterinarian will also take a small tissue sample of the kidneys (kidney biopsy) to establish a confirmatory diagnosis. In some cases – as a last resort – surgery may be required to take a sample of the neoplasm for a definitive diagnosis.


There is no single curative treatment for renal adenocarcinoma, but surgery is performed in the majority of cases. Complete resection (removal) of the carcinoma tissue, along with some normal tissue, is done. There are some chemotherapeutic agents that may also be used in some patients but the success rate is quite low. Patients with renal failure or other complications will be treated to prevent further aggravation of symptoms.

Living and Management

As no definitive treatment is available yet, cats with renal adenocarcinoma may have few months to live even if the tumor is small and well-localized. If surgery is performed, your veterinarian will recommend serial urine and blood testing along with radiographs to monitor re-growth of the tumor. These patients usually have several complications, like kidney failure, and will need to be monitored on a regular basis. During this time you can improve your cat's quality of life by keeping it comfortable and protecting it from stressful situations. Follow your veterinarian's guidelines, especially in giving chemotherapeutic agents at home. Many chemotherapeutic agents can be hazardous to your health if not handled properly; consult with your veterinarian on the best handling practices.

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