Primary and metastatic carcinomas in the digits of cats

Vet Q. 2000 Jul;22(3):141-5. doi: 10.1080/01652176.2000.9695043.


In the period 1993-1998, digital carcinomas in 64 cats were examined. In all animals primary complaints were painful digit(s). Eight cats had a primary squamous cell carcinoma which involved one digit or two adjacent digits of one leg. Fifty-six cats had metastases of a pulmonary carcinoma in the digits, and in general multiple digits of different legs were involved. In many of these cats metastases also occurred in other organs, including the skin and muscles. No primary sweat gland carcinomas of the digits were seen. Primary squamous cell carcinomas of the digits were characterized by cornification and the absence of PAS-positive cells, PAS-positive secretory material. Immunohistochemically, these neoplasms stained negative with the monoclonal antibody CAM 5.2 directed against Keratin 8 (K 8). The metastases of pulmonary carcinomas to the digits showed one or more of the following histological features: goblet cells, ciliated epithelial cells, PAS-positive cells or lakes, and/or a PAS-positive lining of luminal membranes and no cornification. Immunohistochemically, they showed positive staining for CAM 5.2 (K8). Thoracic radiographs from three cats with a primary squamous cell carcinoma showed no abnormalities, whereas all cases of metastases from a pulmonary carcinoma to the digits available for follow-up showed evidence of a primary pulmonary carcinoma on radiography and/or postmortem examination (25 out of 56). The conclusion of this study was that most carcinomas in the digits of cats were metastases of a primary pulmonary carcinoma (87.5%). Primary squamous cell carcinomas occurred infrequently. The prognosis of metastases of a pulmonary carcinoma in the digits is poor with an average survival time of 4.9 weeks, in contrast to 29.5 weeks in cats with a squamous cell carcinoma. These data stress the importance of taking thoracic radiographs of cats with digital tumours before surgical intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / veterinary*
  • Cat Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Cat Diseases / pathology*
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry / veterinary
  • Immunohistochemistry / veterinary
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / veterinary*
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Radiography
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / secondary
  • Skin Neoplasms / veterinary*
  • Toes