Feline Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors: A Closer Look Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors in Cats: what you should know

Feline Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors: A Closer Look

Peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs) can arise from any peripheral nerve in the body, including those in the limbs, trunk, or head. This article will provide an overview of PNSTs in cats, their treatment, and management options.

Feline peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs) are a type of cancer that affects the peripheral nerves of cats. These tumors develop from the cells that make up the nerve sheath, the nerves' protective coating. The simultaneous or sequential development of multiple nerve sheath tumors characterizes peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs) in cats.  

This article will unravel the complexities of PNSTs and empower cat owners with the knowledge they need to navigate this challenging journey with their feline friends.


Some potential causes or risk factors associated with feline PNSTs:

  • Genetic Predisposition: Some breeds may have a higher incidence of these tumors than others, suggesting a genetic component.

  • Chemical Exposure: Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins may increase the risk of developing PNSTs. However, specific causative agents have not been definitively identified.

  • Nerve Trauma or Injury: Previous nerve trauma or injury, such as lacerations, fractures, or compression, may play a role in the development of PNSTs. Sometimes the site of a previous nerve injury will give rise to a tumor.

  • Radiation Exposure: Radiation therapy or exposure to high levels of radiation in the past may be associated with an increased risk of PNSTs. Animals who have already had radiation treatments are more likely to experience this.

  • Age: Feline PNSTs can occur in cats of various ages, but they are more commonly seen in middle-aged to older cats.


 Peripheral nerve sheath tumors in cats symptoms include:

  • Palpable Mass or Swelling: A noticeable lump or swelling may be felt in the affected area. This can be observed as a firm or soft mass under the skin or in deeper tissues.

  • Lameness or Limping: If the tumor affects the peripheral nerves in the limbs, cats may exhibit lameness or have difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg. They may limp or favor one leg over the other.

  • Pain or Discomfort: Cats with PNSTs may experience pain or discomfort, which can be exhibited through behaviors such as vocalization, and reluctance to move. In the case that there is a tumor on the cat’s neck, it may be guarding the affected area.

  • Nerve Dysfunction: PNSTs can cause dysfunction of the peripheral nerves, leading to various neurological signs. These can include weakness or paralysis of specific muscles, abnormal gait or coordination, decreased reflexes, or loss of sensation in the affected area.

  • Muscle Atrophy: Over time, PNSTs can result in muscle wasting or atrophy in the area supplied by the affected nerve. This can be observed as a visible decrease in muscle size or loss of muscle tone.

  • Systemic Signs (in advanced cases): In some instances, if the tumor has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body, cats may exhibit systemic signs of illness. These can include weight loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, or respiratory distress, depending on the extent of metastasis.

Diagnosis of Neurofibrosarcomas in Cats

The diagnosis of feline peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs) typically involves a combination of clinical examination, imaging techniques, and sometimes histopathological analysis. The usual procedures for diagnosing PNSTs in cats are as follows:

Treatment Options for Feline Neurofibrosarcomas

Feline nerve sheath tumor treatments may include:

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the tumor is often the treatment of choice if feasible. The tumor must be completely removed, along with a margin of surrounding healthy tissue. To guarantee total tumor eradication, it may occasionally be necessary to amputate a limb.

  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy could be suggested either as a stand-alone therapy or in combination with surgery. It can be used to target and destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery or to control the tumor's growth if complete surgical excision is not possible. Radiation therapy is typically delivered in multiple sessions over several weeks.

  • Palliative Care: In cases where complete tumor removal or aggressive treatments are not possible, palliative care focuses on managing pain and maintaining the cat's quality of life. This may involve pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, or other supportive measures to alleviate discomfort and improve mobility.

Preventive Tips

No specific measures are known for preventing the development of feline peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs). However, the following general steps can be taken to promote overall health and potentially reduce the risk of cancer in cats. 

  • Regular Veterinary Care: To ensure that your cat receives the proper preventative care, schedule periodic visits with your veterinarian. Regular physical exams, immunizations, and screenings can aid in the early identification of any possible health risks.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of various health problems, including certain types of cancer. Provide your cat with a balanced diet and engage them in regular exercise to help maintain a healthy weight.

  • Environmental Enrichment: Create a stimulating environment for your cat with plenty of opportunities for playtime with toys, mental stimulation, and social interaction. This can help de-stress and promote the cat's general well-being.

  • Minimize Exposure to Toxins: Avoid exposing your cat to potential environmental toxins, including household cleaners, pesticides, certain plants, and other hazardous substances. Keep toxic substances out of your cat's reach, and consider using pet-safe alternatives whenever possible.

  • Spay or Neuter: Spaying or neutering your cat can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, including reproductive system cancers.

  • Prevent Trauma and Injury: Take measures to prevent traumatic injuries to your cat. Ensure they are kept in a safe environment and avoid situations that may result in accidents or trauma.

In order to ensure your cat gets the best of the recovery and treatment options, it is vital that you speak with your vet on how to combine the therapy options above.

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