Cats, just like humans, can get tumors in the brain or adjacent tissues. It is usually middle-aged or older cats that are affected.
Brain tumors can be benign – they consist of a collection of cells that grow uncontrollably in one place – or malignant, ie they can grow into surrounding tissues and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, due to the limited space in the skull, benign tumors also pose a threat to the cat’s life and health, as they cause pressure on the sensitive brain tissue as they grow.
Tumors in the brain can be primary, ie they have arisen from cells in the brain tissue or its supporting cells, meninges, blood vessels etc. The most common type of tumor is meningioma, a benign tumor that occurs in the meninges. It also happens that a malignant tumor elsewhere in the body spreads to the brain, giving rise to a so-called secondary tumor.
What causes brain tumors in cats is not clear, but there are several factors such as heredity, environmental factors, immunological factors and more.
Depending on where in the brain the tumor is located, the symptoms can vary. The cat may have visual impairment, epilepsy-like seizures, behavioral changes (that the cat becomes subdued and is not the same), instability, possible increased sensitivity or pain reaction when touching around the neck region, etc. A tumor in the pituitary gland can give rise to secondary Cushing and if the tumor has spread to the brain from a primary tumor elsewhere in the body (eg udder), the cat may show symptoms from the mother tumor.
A cat with neurological symptoms may undergo a clinical examination, which is often supplemented with blood tests to rule out other causes of the symptoms (eg poisoning). Brain tumor is often diagnosed as a probability diagnosis, based on neurological examination and diagnostic imaging with MRI or CT. It is not possible to say with certainty what a new formation consists of simply by looking at it with MRI or CT, but for a definitive diagnosis it is necessary to examine tissue samples from the new formation.
Most cats with brain tumors receive treatment for the symptoms (eg epilepsy medication) or steroids to counteract swelling associated with the tumor, which can alleviate the symptoms. If the cat has a meningioma that is located in a place where it is possible to operate, surgical treatment, which may be combined with steel treatment, may be possible.
Because brain tumors in cats often cannot be completely cured, the prognosis is poor in the long run. It is important that the cat receives satisfactory symptom relief from the medication, and it should make regular visits to the veterinarian for follow-up and dose control.